NY Mets: What to expect from Carlos Carrasco beyond 2021

Aug 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco (59) throws a pitch in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco (59) throws a pitch in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

Carlos Carrasco was a guy I wanted the New York Mets to add long before he was traded to Flushing. A favorable contract, several overlooked quality seasons, and a playoff pedigree, he seemed like the exact kind of pitcher the team could afford for the roster and payroll.

Like many, I was hyped to see Cookie join the Mets for what we all agreed would be a memorable and fun 2021 season. An injury in the preseason delayed his debut until July 30.

Five starts into his time with the Mets, we have seen a weakened veteran take the mound. He is 0-2 with an 8.82 ERA. Because he is working his way back from an injury, it’s tough to truly criticize him fairly.

The 2021 campaign might be lost for him. However, with two more seasons potentially keeping him in New York, what can we expect moving forward?

Resetting some expectations for Carlos Carrasco during his Mets tenure

Carrasco will pitch next season at age 35. It’s not exactly the age when the average person starts to think about AARP benefits. In sports, it is close to the end for many.

Carrasco has over 1200 big league innings on his arm dating back to his debut in 2009. If his health holds up, it’s not outrageous to expect him to play through 2023 even if he ends up getting bought out in the final year of his deal.

The fear with anyone at his age with a recent lengthy injury is that the end can strike with little notice. Roy Halladay is a guy whose career quickly went from Cy Young candidate to someone no longer able to keep up with the league. Carrasco is far from the level of Halladay. However, we can look at some other guys in their age 35 season and how they performed to get somewhat of an idea as to what Carrasco can offer the Mets.

One pitcher whose career Carrasco’s has mimicked closely is Shane Reynolds. According to Baseball-Reference, it’s Reynolds whose career numbers at age 30-32 that most resemble Carrasco’s.

Reynolds pitched in a much different era from 1992-2004. I don’t see many striking resemblances between the two but I’m going to defer to Baseball-Reference to say they had similar careers—at least at that stage of their lives.

Reynolds was less durable by the time he reached his mid-30s like many starting pitchers tend to be. In his age 35 season, he was still able to make 29 starts and a relief appearance for the Atlanta Braves. The results weren’t great. In 167.1 innings, he was 11-9 with a 5.43 ERA. He would return for only a single start the following year with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I don’t so much look at Reynolds for any indication as to what Carrasco will do. More so, he gives some balance and levity. As a fan of Carrasco’s, I feel my heart would give him a far greater benefit of the doubt. Logically, I can foresee a much worse scenario.

Is it possible that Cookie has burnt?

Carrasco is tough to predict because he underwent his own major health scare back in 2019. Diagnosed with leukemia, he battled through something far more important than throwing baseballs. His season wasn’t great, but he was an All-Star in a completely different kind of way.

The following year, Carrasco bounced back in the shortened 2020 campaign with a 2.91 ERA in 68 innings pitched across 12 starts. It was unexpectedly productive albeit in a shorter sample than any other recent season of his career.

When the Mets added him this past winter, I was one of the hopeful thinking that while a 2.91 ERA was probably out of the question, something closer to the 3.38 he had in 2018 was realistic.

He was moving to the National League, after all. Starting half of his games at Citi Field would also help.

Unless Cookie is burnt, he should have something sweet to give the Mets next year. I don’t think it will be anything close to what he did in his best days over in Cleveland. His workload has gone down a ton over the last three years. Expecting him to be a horse in the rotation is asking him to be much more than he can do.

Carrasco may have arrived to the Mets with the expectation of being a number two or three starter but that was for the 2021 season. In 2022, a year older and wiser yet a little more broken down and closer to retirement, it would be wise to set ourselves up for something a little less.

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And what’s the worst that can happen if the front office thinks the same? We know the Mets will be in the market for starting pitching to some degree. In their minds, viewing Carrasco as a lesser piece can only work out for the betterment of the team.