Good for the New York Mets for treating a veteran player well. That hasn’t always been the case in the 6o plus years of the franchise. That said, the final weeks of 2023 must prioritize 2024 and beyond. If that means pulling the widely-respected veteran Carlos Carrasco from the rotation, then so be it. With viable young options in Triple-A, Carlos Carrasco should not start for the Mets anymore this season.
The 36-year-old struggled greatly on Saturday against Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels. In just an inning and two-thirds, Carrasco gave up five runs on seven hits. The damage was not cheap either. Of the seven hits, only two were singles. All 11 balls put in play against Carrasco were hit at least 90 mph. Six of the 11 were hit at least 100 mph, topped by Ohtani’s 109.6 mph double in the first inning.
Final line for Carlos Carrasco. pic.twitter.com/mnkd2dqSPq
— SNY Mets (@SNY_Mets) August 26, 2023
Carlos Carrasco is not fooling any hitters and has not been putting the Mets in a position to win games. It is respectable that the Mets are giving the soon-to-be free agent a sizable leash to figure out his struggles before hitting the open market this winter. However, the Mets need to focus on what is best for the Mets. That means giving Major League starts to someone like Joey Lucchesi to see where he might fit on next year’s roster. There’s no value in keeping him in Syracuse while Carrasco, who has no future with the team beyond next month, continues to struggle mightily. Carrasco should not start another game for the team.
Carlos Carrasco Should Not Start Anymore for the Mets
The righty has pitched to an ERA over 10 in his last eight starts. His pitches are not competitive and hitters are teeing off. Since tossing eight shutout innings against Arizona on July 6th, the Venezuelan has allowed 33 earned runs over 29 innings with just 23 strikeouts. Additionally, he is not even giving the team length, with five of these starts lasting no more than four innings.
After Carlos Carrasco’s last start on August 20th, reporters asked Mets manager Buck Showalter about the righty’s spot in the rotation. While no moves were on the horizon that day, it’s notable that the manager, known for loyalty to veteran players, was noncommittal regarding Carrasco’s future.
Buck Showalter was asked if the team would consider filling Carlos Carrasco's spot in the rotation with somebody like Joey Lucchesi or Mike Vasil:
"Those are things that organizationally we would look at, but that is not something we are thinking about right now" pic.twitter.com/FT9yXgWzkn
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 20, 2023
As one of the most beloved and highly regarded figures in the sport, Carrasco deserves to be treated with the utmost respect. An older player performing like the end of the line is near is a tough situation to handle. With nothing to play for in the final weeks of the season, the Mets can afford to give Carrasco a roster spot. However, even he would understand that the team does not owe him anything, especially if it goes against the organization’s current main focus: the future.
Carrasco’s bad stretch comes in a bad year. In 89 innings, Carrasco has dealt with injuries to produce a negative WAR and a 6.80 ERA. Whether Carlos Carrasco retires or not this offseason, he will not be employed by the Mets in 2024. New York can give innings to legitimate younger options with upside. At some point, the team needs to audition these pitchers in favor of the veteran.
The Mets Must Start Joey Lucchesi
The funky lefty returned from Tommy John this season and has spent most of his time at Triple-A. In Syracuse, Lucchesi has thrown 73 innings with a 4.46 ERA. While he has struck out 8.3 batters per nine innings, his more than four walks per nine is too much.
Lucchesi has been better in limited Major League action this season. In six starts, the 30-year-old has a 3.54 ERA in 28 innings. In this small sample, he has struck batters out at a below-league-average rate complemented by an around-average walk rate.
Joey Lucchesi drops the churve on Jordan Walker and gets out of bases-loaded trouble pic.twitter.com/XrPT4brwQL
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 19, 2023
While he is not setting the world on fire this year, his 0.6 WAR in the Majors is almost 2 wins better than Carrasco’s. If all went well, the Mets hoped to bring along Lucchesi slowly in his first year back from major surgery. In Spring Training, he represented the third depth starter behind Tylor Megill and David Peterson. Ideally, Mets starters would have stayed pretty healthy and Lucchesi would be deployed as a bullpen option down the stretch.
That obviously did not come to fruition and the Mets’ main priority right now is the future. Lucchesi is under team control next year and his role on the roster is not clear. Right now, he might be the fifth starter. However, the Mets are expected to acquire at least one starter this winter. That would push him back into a depth role.
It makes sense to give Lucchesi a showcase in the final month of 2023 to get an idea of what he can be next year. His potential performance down the stretch will not guarantee him any role on next year’s roster. However, it will give the Mets an opportunity to evaluate him and get a better idea of what he might be.
It’s valuable to see if he looks like he can be better than Megill or Peterson or if he projects more as a multi-inning reliever. The Mets have been slow at making these types of moves. They only moved Ronny Mauricio off of shortstop this season, years after locking down Francisco Lindor for more than a decade.
Why is Lucchesi Still in Triple-A?
Carlos Carrasco should not start any more games for the Mets. If the Mets were to pull him from the rotation, Lucchesi is the likeliest option to fill in. He has the most upside among Triple-A starters currently on the 40-man roster. It’s a little odd that he’s wasting bullets in the minors.
At first thought, it’s fair to wonder if general manager Billy Eppler is just not a fan of Lucchesi. A different front office initially acquired Lucchessi and Eppler’s evaluation could easily favor guys like Megill or Peterson. Although if this was the case, Eppler could have just non-tendered Lucchesi last offseason to free up a roster spot.
When digging deeper, it is notable that Lucchesi entered the season with four years and 67 days of service time. MLB players reach free agency after six years of service time, and they earn one year by being on the Major League roster (or 60-day IL) for 172 days.
Lucchesi is on pace to finish the season with less than five years of service time. Even if he is on the 2024 roster for a full season, he won’t reach six years. Thus, he won’t be eligible for free agency after 2025. The Mets could easily be keeping Lucchesi off the active roster to ensure they retain his service for the next two years, not one.
Those years will not be expensive either. If tendered a contract, he will likely get a small raise from his $1.15 million through arbitration this winter. Even if he performs well in 2024, one final trip through arbitration will not result in a big 2025 salary. This is great value for quality pitching depth, especially when considering the lack of commitment on the team’s end.
Carlos Carrasco Should Not Start Anymore for the Mets
The Mets are smart to get an extra year of control over Lucchesi. But, he has likely spent enough time in the minors this year for the Mets to gain that year. If they already gained the year, then the most valuable use of Lucchesi is seeing what he can do in the Majors.
Carrasco’s days as a Met are already numbered. The team would benefit greatly by forcing the inevitable and giving his innings to Lucchesi in the final month of the year. Carlos Carrasco should not start for the Mets anymore if they truly want to prioritize the future.
Main photo credits:
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports