Carlos Carrasco left last night’s start against the Braves after just two innings, as the hurler felt some discomfort in his left side. Anthony DiComo of MLB.com was among those to relay that the right-hander will head for an MRI today to determine the cause and severity of the issue.
Carrasco started the game and made it through one inning before weather forced a 55-minute delay. The 35-year-old stayed in the contest despite the long layoff, throwing inside the facility while waiting for the rain to subside. That Carrasco felt discomfort within an inning of getting back on the mound has led to some speculation that manager Buck Showalter’s decision to stick with the veteran after the delay could’ve played a role in the injury. However, both the skipper and Carrasco told reporters they believed the injury to be coincidental, noting that Carrasco had kept himself loose and felt fine until his final pitch. (Braves manager Brian Snitker also stuck with his starter, Spencer Strider, who ended up throwing five innings and 87 pitches).
Regardless, the Mets have to hope the MRI doesn’t reveal any serious issues. Side discomfort can be a precursor to oblique strains — which often cost players upwards of a month on the injured list — but that won’t be known until the imaging results come back. Carrasco has been an effective mid-rotation arm during his second season in Queens, pitching to a 3.92 ERA with an above-average 23.4% strikeout rate over 23 starts. He missed most of his first year as a Met with a torn right hamstring, but he’s avoided the IL thus far in 2022.
Any kind of injury absence could also have contractual repercussions. Carrasco is in the final guaranteed year of his contract. The Mets hold a $14MM option on his services for 2023. That provision would vest (become guaranteed) if he throws 170 innings this season and finishes the year healthy. Carrasco has tallied 126 1/3 frames thus far, leaving him 43 2/3 innings shy of the threshold. The Mets have 46 regular season games remaining, setting them up for around 8-9 more turns through the rotation. Should Carrasco stay healthy, he’d have a chance at getting to 170 innings — he’d need around 4.85 frames per start over nine appearances, 5.46 innings over eight starts — but even a brief IL stay would all but foreclose that possibility.
Of course, the Mets could deem a $14MM price point reasonable enough they exercise Carrasco’s option even if it doesn’t vest. He’s been a valuable member of a team that could lose Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker and Trevor Williams to free agency. New York will need to retain or add plenty of starting pitching this winter, and there could be value in simply keeping Carrasco around. At the same time, they already have an estimated $194MM in guaranteed commitments on the 2023 books and are facing a massive free agent class that also includes Brandon Nimmo and Edwin Díaz. Even with a payroll that may be the highest in the majors (and could well tip over $300MM), they’re likely to lose a couple key contributors from this year’s club.