The Mets announced that starter Carlos Carrasco was diagnosed with a low-grade strain of his left oblique. The team added that recovery of this nature usually takes three to four weeks.
It’s not unexpected news after the right-hander was sent for an MRI this morning. Carrasco left yesterday’s start against the Braves after two innings with pain in his side, immediately raising the possibility of an oblique issue. It’s certainly not ideal that he will have to go on the injured list and could miss about a month of action, but the club is also fortunate that he avoided a more serious strain that would have affected his availability for the postseason.
Carrasco started last night’s game and went through one inning before weather forced a 55-minute delay. The 35-year-old stayed in the contest despite the long layoff, pitching inside the facility while waiting for the rain to subside. That Carrasco felt discomfort within an inning of returning to the mound led to some speculation that manager Buck Showalter’s decision to stick with the veteran after the delay could have played a role in the injury. However, both the skipper and Carrasco told reporters that they believed the injury to be accidental, noting that Carrasco kept loose and felt fine until his final pitch. (Braves manager Brian Snitker also stuck with his starter, Spencer Striderwho ended up throwing five innings and 87 pitches).
Carrasco was an effective mid-rotation arm during his second season in Queens, pitching to a 3.92 ERA with an above-average 23.4% strikeout rate over 23 starts. He missed most of his first year as a MET with a torn right hamstring, but he has avoided the IL so far in 2022. Carrasco was slated to start one half of a doubleheader against the Phillies on Saturday, but the club now seems. likely to turn into a swinger Trevor Williams to pair with a sixth starter David Petersonwho is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse, as Anthony DiComo of MLB.com wrote yesterday evening.
The Mets hold a 4 1/2 game lead over Atlanta in the NL East. The division winner is almost certain to receive the newly established first-round bye in the Wild Card round, with a huge margin between the leaders in the NL East and NL Central. Initial five of James of Grom, Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Taijuan Walker and Peterson are still a great group, but there’s no doubt the club would feel better with Carrasco in the fold as well. It seems likely that they will welcome Carrasco back in some capacity before the postseason begins, but it remains to be seen to what extent he will be able to rebuild his arm strength after the layoff. It’s possible he’s limited more to a relief or shortened starting job heading into the playoffs.
The injury also has serious consequences for Carrasco contractually. The Mets hold a $14MM option on his services through 2023. That provision would vest (become guaranteed) if he throws 170 innings this season and finishes the year healthy. Carrasco has tallied 126 1/3 frames so far, leaving him 43 2/3 innings shy of the threshold. There’s no chance for him to work as hard in the final three weeks of the season, so the injury eliminates any chance of Carrasco hitting the jersey trigger.
Of course, the Mets could deem a price of $14MM reasonable enough for them to exercise Carrasco’s option regardless. He was a valuable member of a team that could lose deGrom, Bassitt, Walker and Williams to free agency. New York will need to retain or add a lot of starting pitching this winter, and there could be value in simply keeping Carrasco around. At the same time, they already have an estimated $194MM in guaranteed commitments on the 2023 books and face a massive free agent class that also includes Brandon Nimmo and Edwin Diaz. Even with a payroll that may be the highest in the majors (and could well turn over $300MM), they will likely lose some key contributors from this year’s club.