While the conclusion of the 2018 playing season came just Sunday night, teams around the Major League Baseball landscape are already back to work on making roster decisions that will affect 2019 and beyond.
The Cleveland Indians resolved a pair of these problems on Tuesday, when the team announced that the 2019 team option for starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco had been picked up, while the option for outfielder Brandon Guyer had been declined.
The decision to bring back Carrasco for another year was an easy choice to make, given his consistent efforts as one of the better arms in baseball over the last few years. The 31-year-old right-hander is playing through the option years’ portion of his team-friendly deal that he signed back in 2015. He made 30 starts in 2018, posting a 17-10 record with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. He led the organization with a career-high 231 strikeouts in 192 innings of work, giving him a career-best 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings (one of the best single-season rates in franchise history). He led baseball with two complete games thrown. His win total and innings pitched total were second-best in his career and his WHIP and ERA were third-best in a season as a regular starter.
Similar numbers at the end of the 2017 season landed him a fourth place finish in the American League Cy Young voting. He is expected to once again finish somewhere in the top ten of the voting this season.
According to Spotrac (partnered with USA TODAY Sports Media Group), Carrasco was 42nd among all Major League starting pitchers in base salary last season at $8 million. His option for 2019 is expected to push his base contract to $9.75 million, which would place him as the 31st-highest paid starting pitcher in MLB (before opt-outs and the free agency period hit, which could dramatically alter that ranking).
Carrasco has one final year on his deal set for 2020 – a team option slated for $10.25 million (after performance-based increases), with a $662,500 buyout.
As for Guyer, the decision whether to retain the veteran platoon bat was likely more difficult. Injuries and ineffectiveness cut significantly into his contributions a season ago when the outfield was already lacking stability. The 32-year-old appeared in 103 games (second-most in his career), slashing .206/.300/.371 with seven homers and 27 RBI. His batting average and on-base percentage were the worst that he had posted since becoming a fixture in the Majors.
Guyer made $2.75 million in 2018 in the second year of his deal with the Indians. His declined option was for $3 million, but he will instead receive a buyout of $250,000 and hit the free agent market.
The removal of Guyer from the outfield picture for 2019 muddies what were already unclear waters for the club in that area of roster construction. Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Rajai Davis are all free agents this offseason, leaving veteran new face Leonys Martin, Greg Allen, converted second base man Jason Kipnis, Tyler Naquin, and the injured Bradley Zimmer as the top outfield options still on the 40-man. Team president Chris Antonetti expressed an interest in looking at a reunion with Guyer down the road on a different deal, but that other financial concerns needed to be addressed first.
The next thing on the Indians’ offseason agenda is for the front office to continue negotiations with its exclusive rights free agents, something it can do until 5 PM on Friday. The team also needs to determine whether or not it plans to extend qualifying offers (coming in at one year and $17.9 million), particularly to relievers Cody Allen and Andrew Miller and outfielder Brantley.
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