The Mets are going to pick up Carlos Carrasco’s option for 2023, per Tim Healey of Newsday. He’ll earn a $14MM salary instead of a $3MM buyout. They will also pick up their $775K option on reliever John Curtiss instead of the $70K buyout, per Mike Puma of The New York Post.
Carrasco, 36 in March, has been up-and-down over the past few years, with injuries usually contributing to the down parts. Acquired by the Mets prior to 2021, he only tossed 52 2/3 innings last year with a 6.04 ERA. 2020 was much better, as he was healthy enough to make 29 starts and toss 152 frames. In that time, he registered a 3.97 ERA with a 23.6% strikeout rate, 6.4% walk rate and 46% ground ball rate. With the $14MM option price and $3MM buyout, it was a net $11MM decision for the club. There’s certainly risk in that kind of commitment given Carrasco’s injury history, but it’s also possible that he’s well worth that salary.
What also likely played a role in the Mets’ decision was their broad rotation picture. Jacob deGrom opted out of his contract while Taijuan Walker and Chris Bassitt declined options in favor of free agency. That’s left three big holes in the club’s starting staff for next year. Even if Carrasco’s age and injury history caused them to consider turning down his option at any point, they might have been dissuaded from doing so by the circumstances. Replacing three starters is challenging enough without creating another vacancy.
With Carrasco now retained, he will slot in behind Max Scherzer as two of the club’s starters next year. There are some in-house options for filling the remaining three slots, such as Tylor Megill, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi and Jose Butto. However, the Mets have been quite aggressive in upgrading their roster in recent years and will likely bring in reinforcements, either fresh faces or convincing their departing free agents to return.
As for Curtiss, 30 in April, he seemed to be having a breakout in recent years. In 2020, he tossed 25 innings for the Rays with a 1.80 ERA, 25.3% strikeout rate, 3% walk rate and 42% ground ball rate. He got traded to the Marlins prior to 2021 and then to the Brewers a few months later. He posted a 3.45 ERA over 44 1/3 innings that year but then required Tommy John surgery in September.
After he was non-tendered by the Brewers, the Mets signed him to a one-year deal, knowing that he would miss the entire 2022 campaign, but with the option for 2023. The $775K salary is barely above the league minimum, which will be $720K next year. There’s little risk in the Mets picking it up and seeing if Curtiss can bounceback to his old form once healthy. They also face a huge amount of turnover in the bullpen, as Mychal Givens, Adam Ottavino, Trevor Williams, Joely Rodriguez, Seth Lugo, Trevor May and Tommy Hunter are all now free agents. Edwin Díaz was set to join that group before he and the Mets agreed to a new contract. Given that the Mets will need to essentially rebuild their entire bullpen, it makes sense to retain any warm they can find.
With these two salaries now on the books, the Mets’ payroll for 2023 is up to $238MM, according to Roster Resource. Their CBT number is slightly ahead at $249MM, since that figure is calculated by looking at the annual average value of contracts over their entire length, not just the 2023 salaries. This year’s top luxury tax bracket will begin at $293MM, with owner Steve Cohen hinting to Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman of The New York Post that he could be willing to spend in that range. If that’s the case, the club still has some funds available to continue upgrading the pitching staff and the positional player mix.