CLEVELAND -- So much of the offseason conversation surrounding the Indians has revolved around the possibility of them trading a starting pitcher. But on Thursday, the club locked in one of its best arms for the long haul.Carlos Carrasco's extension was extended. The deal the right-hander signed in 2015 that
CLEVELAND -- So much of the offseason conversation surrounding the Indians has revolved around the possibility of them trading a starting pitcher. But on Thursday, the club locked in one of its best arms for the long haul.
Carlos Carrasco's extension was extended. The deal the right-hander signed in 2015 that was scheduled to run through 2020 now runs through '22 with a club option for '23. The Indians had already picked up their $9.75 million option on Carrasco for 2019. With the new deal, they officially pick up their $10.25 million option on him for '20 and add $12 million guarantees for '21 and '22. The '23 club option is worth $14 million, with a $3 million buyout.
"I feel great to be part of the Cleveland Indians," Carrasco said. "I just want to finish my career with them. This is something special for me and my family."
Carrasco, who signed his original extension after a health scare that involved non-invasive heart surgery in 2014, is the longest-tenured member of the Indians -- so long that his nickname "Cookie" was given to him back in 2011 by long-departed closer Chris Perez (simply because Carrasco was eating cookies in the clubhouse one day). Now, the trade talk specifically involving Cookie has crumbled, as has any erroneous assumption, in the wake of last week's Yan Gomes trade, that the Tribe is in some sort of full-blown sell situation.
"What this does," team president Chris Antonetti said, "is provide us additional continuity in the rotation beyond 2020. We effectively left this year  alone, exercised the option for 2020 and added two new years beyond that. It's a continued investment by ownership in our team and the desire to remain a very competitive team moving forward."
Over the last four seasons, Carrasco, 31, has compiled a 3.40 ERA and 130 ERA+ (30 percent better than the league average) in 722 innings. That ERA is the sixth best among qualified American League starters in that span, trailing only teammate Corey Kluber (2.96), Chris Sale (3.00), Justin Verlander (3.04), David Price (3.34) and Dallas Keuchel (3.37). In that four-season span, Carrasco has averaged 29 starts and 180 innings. His 2016 was cut short by a line drive that broke his hand in early September, yanking him out of the Indians' postseason mix. But in two AL Division Series starts over the last two years, Carrasco allowed just two runs over 11 innings against the Yankees and Astros.
In 2018, Carrasco went 17-10 with a 3.38 ERA in 192 innings, with a career-best 5.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He had a 2.52 ERA in the second half. His 5.3 FanGraphs-calculated WAR mark for the season ranked 10th in the Majors among qualified starting pitchers.
Carrasco, a native of Venezuela, arrived to the Indians' organization in the 2009 trade that sent reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee to the Phillies. Carrasco's development took time, and it stalled with his 2011 Tommy John surgery that kept him out of action for all of '12.
"Some guys like Francisco Lindor just get it right away," Carrasco said. "[For others] it takes time. But when they gave me the opportunity in the bullpen [in 2014] and then put me back in the rotation, I thought, 'This is my time now. I think this is my time to show off what I can do.'"
That brief demotion to the bullpen wound up unlocking a more determined strike-throwing mindset. Now, Carrasco ranks second all time among Indians pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings (9.27), trailing only Kluber (9.81). Carrasco ranks ninth in franchise history with 1,127 strikeouts.
"It really changed his mindset," Antonetti said. "Carlos has always had a great complement of stuff. How he utilized that stuff came and went at times. When he went to the bullpen, [he adopted] the mindset of just executing one pitch at a time and trying to get that hitter out and then getting the next guy out until Tito [manager Terry Francona] takes the ball from him. That mentality flipped the switch and allowed him to stay aggressive."
So Carrasco's impact on the mound has been immense. And he's made an impact in the community, as well. Carrasco and his wife, Karelis, started the Carlos Carrasco Foundation in 2016 and have raised money and collected resources such as food, books and clothing for the less fortunate both in Cleveland and in Tampa, Fla., where they reside in the offseason. Carrasco has been the Indians' nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award each of the last four years.
The trade rumors involving the Indians will continue, especially with the Winter Meetings about to begin on Monday. The Indians are known to have had talks with other clubs about Kluber and Trevor Bauer (some executives have gotten the sense that they are more likely to move Bauer, if anybody), as the organization is considering any opportunity that might both enhance its 2019 postseason outlook and its long-term window to contend. So much uncertainty is in the air in the Hot Stove rumor mill. But the baseball world can now officially cool the Cookie talk.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.