We’ve discussed the trade market a lot this winter, but not without reason. Thanks to some unexpected organizational decisions (Diamondbacks, Indians, Mets) and some full-on rebuilds (Marlins, Mariners, etc.), major star-power has been on the move this offseason and it doesn’t figure to slow down anytime soon.
Among the most curious (unexpected) decisions, however, came from the Cleveland Indians, who despite holding strong as the AL Central favorites for 2019, were rumored to be pursuing trades for Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and/or Carlos Carrasco.
Each pitcher has been very good recently and while trading from depth to extend one’s window of contention isn’t, itself, a bad idea, that never felt like the case with the Indians. Instead, it felt like they were just trying to cut salary and acquire younger, cheaper players in the process (and, indeed, still are). But I think it’s safe to say at least one of those players won’t be traded, and his name is Carlos Carrasco.
- According to Joel Sherman, Carrasco just signed a 3-year extension with the Indians, and here’s the breakdown of that deal:
Carlos Carrasco's new contract, per source:
2023: $14M club option or a $3M buyout
— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) December 6, 2018
- Before this extension, the Indians had $9M and $9.5M club options over Carrasco for 2019 and 2020 (both came with $0.6M buyouts). Instead, the Indians will give Carrasco a $0.75M raise over the next two years, pay him $12M each in 2021 and 2022, and then hold a club option over him for $14M ($3M buyout) in 2023, when he’s 36-years-old. However well he’s performing at the end of this deal, this looks like fantastic value for the Indians over the next few years. Carrasco has been a 5.0+ WAR pitcher in each of the last two seasons and has totaled nearly 400 innings during that stretch. That’s a great guy to have in your rotation for so cheap.
- So what now? Well, given Corey Kluber’s superior talent and overall likability in Cleveland, I’d expect Bauer (who was a Cy Young candidate, himself, last year) to be most likely on the trade block. The Yankees, Phillies, Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, and Padres feel like potential destinations, but I’m sure plenty of teams wil be interested.
- One of the most anticipated (or, at least, discussed) rule changes this winter is the elimination of the shift. I don’t want to get into the merits of the decision right now – we’ve done that a lot, anyway – but I do want to point out that union head Tony Clark and anonymous executive both seem to believe players wouldn’t be opposed to approving such a change (and their approval, in this case, is required). The players and league rarely find common ground, but on the shift, it seems, there’s not much pushback.
- Also worth noting on the shift: Whether you like it or not, the Cubs seem to be in a particularly strong position to enjoy its retirement. For one, it’ll help improve the slash line of guys like Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant, who are all shifted against A LOT. And for another, the Cubs are the least shifting team in baseball, so defensively, there shouldn’t be much of a concern.
- In addition to shifts, the MLB Players association and league are also considering changes to the draft (possibly including an NBA-style lottery for the top picks), the 10-Day DL, and the 10-Day minimum for the recall of players optioned to the minors. More broadly, their concerns focus on the continued tanking of teams (see Mariners) and how to promote competitiveness. I agree that competitiveness is a problem, but don’t think punishing tanking teams is the solution.
- Instead, I think you need to reward winning teams, a la the Scott Boras plan: “Giving a 78-win team $2 million more in draft money, an 80-win team $4 million more, all the way up to $10 million for an 86-win club, with a playoff appearance netting a club an additional $2 million. High-revenue clubs would get half those amounts, and any team that failed to reach 68 wins would be disqualified from getting a top-five pick.” You see, rewarding winning is a better incentive than weakening the still-existent benefits of losing.
- When you first read “the best thing to happen to the Washington Nationals this offseason might be Bryce Harper turning down the $300 million contract offered by the Club …” it’s hard not to roll your eyes. Because, surely, they would’ve loved it, right? Well, yeah, probably, but Travis Sawchik makes an interesting argument about the benefits of strengthening your weakest link over adding to the top. And when you consider that the Nationals outfield already has Adam Eaton, Juan Soto, and Victor Robles, it’s easy to see why their outfield was no where close to their weakest link.