Cincinnati Reds: Is Carlos Carrasco the best trade option available?

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 19: Starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco #59 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field on September 19, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 19: Starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco #59 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field on September 19, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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The Cincinnati Reds have been adamant about improving their starting pitching this offseason. Is Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians their best trade option?

The Cincinnati Reds have not hidden their desire to upgrade the starting pitching this offseason. While many fans and experts expect the Reds to make some free agent signings, no one should discount the idea of acquiring a starting pitcher via a trade. The Indians’ Carlos Carrasco might be the best option left on the market.

Last season, the 31-year-old went 17-10 with a 3.38 ERA, a career-high 231 strikeouts and a robust 5.4 strikeout-to-walk rate. Carrasco is under team control for the next two seasons with a $9.8 MM salary next season and a club option of $9.5 MM for 2020.

Corey Kluber is also available, per reports, but one would assume that the asking price for Kluber would be higher than Carrasco. Though Kluber is one year older, he has two Cy Young Awards to his name, three All-Star appearances, and an additional year on his contract that would keep him with his team through 2021.

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  • A trade for Corey Kluber would cost the Cincinnati Reds a ton of Major League talent and minor league prospects. Carrasco, while likely to cost the Reds a pretty penny, would not command the same price tag as Kluber.

    The big names on the free agent market like Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel are likely to be signed by the big name ballclubs like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, or Los Angeles Dodgers. Teams like that are able to buy-high on top level free agents and hope they continue to produce at a high level.

    You saw that last year with the gargantuan contract that Yu Darvish signed with the Chicago Cubs. Tyler Chatwood signed a big contract with the Cubbies as well. Unfortunately for them, both Darvish and Chatwood underperformed. But, the Cubs, like the Yankees, Red Sox, and others, can miss on a free agent from time to time and it doesn’t cost them a shot at the pennant.

    A team like the Cincinnati Reds can’t make that type of mistake. Reds fans have seen what happens when a lot of money is tied up in a pitcher who doesn’t perform. Homer Bailey had one win all last season and was owed $21 million for that performance.

    So, that brings us back to Carlos Carrasco. His contract is very affordable for a team like Cincinnati. He’s coming off four straight seasons in which he’s started at least 25 games, and his combined ERA in those 4 seasons is 3.40.

    What would it cost the Reds to get Carrasco? A lot. The Cleveland Indians know what they have, and aren’t terribly motivated to move on from Carrasco or Kluber. The problem with the Indians lies with salary commitment to players like Edwin Encarnacion and Jason Kipnis. Encarnacion is owed $20 MM next season and Kipnis is slated to make $14.5 MM. That’s $34.5 million for two players who hit below .250 last season. Ouch.

    But, unless the Indians are willing to take on much of the money owed to those players, no one is going to take on that salary. That’s why Cleveland is looking to shuffle funds from other aspects of their team and players like Kluber and Carrasco are even on the block. Cleveland also has two young studs, Mike Clevinger and Trevor Bauer, who can help supplement the loss of either Carrasco or Kluber.

    If I’m the Reds and I’m interested in Carlos Carrasco, I wouldn’t sacrifice a player like Taylor Trammell or Nick Senzel. Both are too talented to give up for a player like Carrasco. It would make sense, however, to look to move a player like Jesse Winker along with two prospects like Tyler Stephenson and Aristides Aquino.

    Winker showed how talented he could be last season, but moving a corner outfielder would open up a spot for Nick Senzel in the lineup. Stephenson, while talented, is currently blocked at the big league level by Tucker Barnhart. Curt Casali was also solid as Barnhart’s backup last season.

    The bottom line is, if the Cincinnati Reds want to get reliable, top-level pitching, they’re going to have to pay for it. Be it with a giant contract through free agency, or with talented Major League and minor league talent.

    Next. Is Scooter a trade chip to get pitching?

    Is Carrasco worth it? I believe he is. A top-of-the-rotation starter is needed. James Paxton was traded to the Yankees last week, meaning the market has been set. Are the Reds willing to sacrifice some of the talents on their roster to gain the services or a player like Carrasco, or are they more content to add a starter or two via free agency? We’ll find out soon enough.