Carrasco: Mets have potential to reach WS

January 12th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Francisco Lindor may be “Mr. Smile,” but even he might have a difficult time out-grinning his longtime teammate, Carlos Carrasco. Coming to the Mets alongside Lindor in last week’s blockbuster trade, Carrasco was so enthused that he dressed up for his introductory Zoom conference on Tuesday, donning both a Mets jersey and cap while speaking from his home.

“I’m so happy right now,” Carrasco said. “I wish Spring Training started next week, to meet everyone and start wearing this jersey. It’s something really important for me, just wearing this jersey right now.”

If Carrasco represents the less-heralded part of the Mets’ trade with the Indians, perhaps he shouldn’t. Here are five takeaways from Carrasco’s introduction.

1. He’s as excited about the Mets’ direction as anyone

Carrasco will slide either second or third in the rotation behind Jacob deGrom and possibly Marcus Stroman. That gives the Mets the sort of stability they lacked a week ago, when questions abounded regarding the depth of their starting five.

On paper, the Mets are now one of the National League’s best teams; Fangraphs places them third in the Majors in projected WAR behind only the Dodgers and Padres. That’s a significant improvement from Carrasco’s former situation in Cleveland, as the Indians rate 13th.

Like Lindor, Carrasco had mixed emotions about leaving a franchise he had known for so long -- in his case, 11 seasons. But he is enthusiastic about his future in New York.

“The potential is to make it to the playoffs and to the World Series, too,” Carrasco said. “They have a really good team. We have a really good team. Adding myself and Lindor is going to be really, really good, really nice."

2. … and Lindor is a significant reason why

When news of the trade broke last week, Lindor called Carrasco to tell him, “Hey Cookie, we’re leaving together.” Lindor played behind Carrasco for six seasons in Cleveland and has known him even longer than that. Moving in tandem to Flushing provides a sense of familiarity.

"He’s a really good guy,” Carrasco said. “I never see him mad. I never see him upset, anything. And that’s what we need.”

It helps that Lindor is also one of the best players in baseball, capable of changing a franchise’s fortunes through his hitting, his defense and even his personality. Lindor sees similar qualities in Carrasco, who has been a consistently strong pitcher for most of the last decade.

“He brings a great energy,” Lindor said. “Carrasco is an outstanding teammate. He cares about the game. He cares about winning. And the happiness he brings to the clubhouse every single day, it’s something to look forward to and admire. … He wants to please people. So that’s going to be a great facet that he’s going to bring to the Mets organization. People are going to love him for sure.”

3. There is familiarity with his new catcher

One other constant for much of Carrasco’s tenure in the American League Central was backstop James McCann, who spent seven seasons with the Tigers and White Sox before signing a four-year, $40.6 million contract with the Mets this winter.

McCann has already lived up to his reputation as a favorite of pitchers, interacting with several of his new batterymates since coming onboard. When the Mets traded for Carrasco, McCann was the first new teammate to text him.

“He’s a really good man,” Carrasco said. “Now he’s going to be my catcher, so we need to talk a lot. I think we’re going to be fine.”

4. Carrasco is healthy and grateful

To know Carrasco is to understand one of the most important threads of his life. In 2019, Carrasco was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, setting off a spiral of medical treatments that put his Major League career in jeopardy. He returned late that summer in relief, struggling for a bit before returning to the rotation at full strength last season.

In 12 starts for the Indians, Carrasco produced a 2.91 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 68 innings -- not that any statistic could define what it meant for him simply to be healthy again.

“The first time that I found out that I had leukemia, I just thought about it for 10 seconds,” Carrasco said. “The worst thing. But after that, I just always had my wife on my side, and she told me, ‘You’re going to be fine.’ From Day 1 even to now this morning, ‘You’re fine.’ And that’s what I need to hear.”

5. … and he likes to pay that feeling forward

Carrasco’s return was about so much more than baseball. For years before his diagnosis, Carrasco -- inspired by his daughter, who once asked unprompted to donate her hair to cancer patients in Cleveland -- spent his time away from the ballpark visiting hospitals. He has since given countless hours of his time to children suffering from leukemia and similar blood diseases.

For his work, Carrasco won the 2019 Roberto Clemente Award, which is Major League Baseball’s most prestigious philanthropic honor. He intends to continue such efforts in his new home, saying he is eager “to go to New York and start a good relationship with the community.”

“The same way we did in Cleveland, I would love to do in New York, and that’s our goal,” he said. “I can’t wait to get there with my family and start giving back to the community. For us, it’s really important, because we know there’s a lot of people out there that need help. It’s something that I’ve loved to do for a long time.”