ABOUT CARLOS CARRASCO
1. Signing Carlos Carrasco to a contract extension means the Indians won’t trade him in the off-season. They have promised the pitcher that much. It would be disingenuous to learn from Carrasco that he wants to stay and is willing to sign a very reasonable (by MLB standards) extension — and then trade him.
2. The Indians touch base with the agents for their players often during the off-season. It was from those conversations they learned of Carrasco’s wish for a longer deal. He was under contract for 2019 ($9.75 million) and the team had a $9.5 million option on him for 2020.
3. The new contract is this: $9.75 million (2019), $10.25 million (2020), $12 million (2021) and $12 million (2022). There is a $14 million option for 2023, with a $3 million buyout.
4. In the insane market for starting pitching, this is a bargain. But the Indians are taking some risk. Carrasco will be 32 on March 21. He had Tommy John elbow surgery in 2011. He has been on the disabled list four times in the last three years — twice because he’s been hit with line drives.
5. It seems Carrasco sometimes is wearing a bullseye instead of a number. The right-hander also has dodged several line drives up the middle. But the bottom line is over the last four years, Carrasco has averaged 180 innings, his typical record was 15-9 with a 3.33 ERA.
6. Carrasco has been the Tribe’s Roberto Clemente Award nominee. He has done a lot in the community. Great teammate. Wants to play. Good pitcher willing to value security on a team-friendly deal. Good move for both sides.
7. The Indians gave Jake Westbrook a three-year, $33 million contract extension before the 2008 season. After five starts, his elbow blew up and he needed major surgery. He missed nearly two years.
8. The story had a happy ending as Westbrook became part of a 2010 trade bringing a minor leaguer named Corey Kluber to the Tribe. The Indians know there is a risk signing the 31-year-old Carrasco to a four-year extension. They also know how Carrasco has followed Kluber’s lead in terms of conditioning and preparing for each start.
ABOUT TRADE RUMORS
1. The signing of Carrasco to an extension takes him off the trading market. It puts the focus on Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber during the upcoming winter meetings in Las Vegas.
2. Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com reported the Indians would be willing to listen to trade offers for Edwin Encarnacion. That’s true. In fact, they have been trying to get some serious talks going to take the $25 million (he has $20 million in 2019 and a $5 million 2020 buyout) contract. Trading him sounds like a long shot.
3. The Indians obviously are looking to dump some payroll. They took a big hit the last two years, reaching the middle of the pack in payroll with an attendance and cable TV contract in the bottom third of the Majors. They have traded a lot of prospects — Francisco Mejia, Justus Sheffield, Clint Frazier, Willi Castro and Conner Capel. Now, they want to add some young players.
4. This was a surprise to me: The Indians have the second oldest team in the Majors (29.9 years) in 2018. Toronto (30.3) was the leader. That’s according to Statista. It’s not huge – 10 teams are between 29-30 years old in average. But I never thought of the Tribe as having one of the older rosters. It’s also why the team wants more young players. That’s why I was a bit surprised Hoynes also mentioned Yandy Diaz as possibly being traded.
5. The outfield is a major problem. Right now, it would be Jason Kipnis (left) with Greg Allen and Leonys Martin (center) and Tyler Naquin/Jordan Luplow platooning in right field. Trading Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer is a way to add help in the outfield and the bullpen (another problem area).
6. When the Indians traded Mejia to San Diego for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, they knew it could be a deal they’d regret in a few years. But they wanted to make a run back to the World Series in 2018. The bullpen collapse of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen made it imperative the Indians add relief. Hand did pitch well for the Tribe (0-1, 2.28 ERA, 8 saves).
7. Hand is under contract two more years, so the Indians have him to anchor the back of the bullpen. Allen and Miller are likely gone via free agency. The Indians still want to win the Central Division and try to make another run in the playoffs, so Hand is important to that. They also think Cimber can develop into a Joe Smith-type reliever.
8. That said, Mejia batted .328 (.946 OPS) with seven home runs and 23 RBI in 132 plate appearances in Class AAA for San Diego. The Indians had some doubt about him being a regular catcher, but they know he can hit.
9. The Yan Gomes trade was difficult for me and most Tribe fans. It was primarily a pay-cutting move as he was set to earn $7 million in 2018. The prospects coming in return from Washington are not blue chippers in the Mejia class. Outfielder Daniel Johnson was ranked No. 8 on Washington’s prospect list by Baseball America. He’ll probably open 2019 at Class AA Akron.
10. Baseball America on Johnson: “He can run, play all three outfield positions and has a cannon for an arm, but no one is sure how much he’ll hit. He ranked as the Nationals’ No. 8 prospect entering the year but hit just .267 with six home runs in 89 games at Double-A Harrisburg. He missed time with a broken hamate bone. He followed up by hitting .145 in the Arizona Fall League. At his best, Johnson has a contact bat that drives balls the opposite way into the left-center gap.”
11. The Indians also acquired pitcher Jefry Rodriguez In the trade. Baseball America wrote: “Rodriguez ranked as the Nationals’ No. 24 prospect entering last season. He was 3-3, 5.71 ERA in 14 appearances (eight starts) as a rookie. Rodriguez has power stuff with a 95 mph fastball and a hammer power curveball, but he’s still learning to control it.”
12. The Tribe is relying on Roberto Perez and rookie Eric Haase to handle the catching duties, unless they find someone else. In the last two years, Haase combined for 47 HR between Class AA Akron and Class AAA Columbus.
13. Gomes made the 2018 All-Star team. He had injury problems from 2015-2017, never playing more than 105 games in a season. He’s an excellent defensive catcher when healthy with some power. We’ll see how the Indians are able to replace him, but he’ll be missed.
14. If the Indians fail to make a big trade at the Winter Meetings, it’s worth remembering the Tribe laid the ground work for the Trevor Bauer deal in the 2013 Winter Meetings. The three-way deal was finished a few weeks later.
ABOUT DANNY SALAZAR
1. Yes, the Indians gave Danny Salazar a $4.5 million deal, slightly less than the $5 million he was paid in 2018. he also did not pitch a single inning in 2018. He’s battled injuries since making the 2016 All-Star team. He had shoulder surgery on July 2. He is expected to start throwing in Goodyear in the next few weeks.
2. Salazar is like a lottery ticket. The Indians have no idea if the 28-year-old can be healthy. But they do know it’s in his financial interest to try to pitch. And Salazar has a career 38-33 record with a 3.82 ERA.
3. Baseball is insane in terms of what it will pay for starting pitchers. The Padres signed Garrett Richards to a two-year, $15 million deal. He is expected to miss all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery. In the last three seasons, he has pitched only 149 innings in 28 starts because of injuries.
4. Washington signed Patrick Corbin to a six-year, $140 million deal. The lefty is a solid starter. He was 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA last season. Over the previous three years, Corbin was 30-33 with a 4.03 ERA. That was for Arizona in the National League, where it’s easier to pitch because of no DH. He does have Tommy John surgery in his background, but $140 million? OK…