LAS VEGAS — The Mets decided to keep Carlos Carrasco for 2023 on Thursday, providing a measure of certainty for a section of the roster that has little of it.
They picked up the $14 million option they held on his contract. Their other choice was to let him become a free agent and pay a $3 million buyout. This way, they keep a reasonably reliable arm to pencil into a rotation that currently includes Carrasco and Max Scherzer and no other locks.
“It fills one spot on the depth chart with somebody that we like. It’s a big thing,” general manager Billy Eppler said at the conclusion of this week’s GM meetings. “We value him as a starter and like the arsenal of tools, like the presence that he brings on the mound. He’s reliable, and we know he can handle New York. A lot of those elements kind of drove that decision.”
In his first full season since 2018, Carrasco had a 3.97 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 29 starts for the Mets in 2022. He was third on the team with 152 innings.
Rebuilding the rotation will be a focus for the Mets in the coming weeks and months, with at least two acquisitions likely. Also, David Peterson, Tylor Megill and Joey Lucchesi remain internal options behind Scherzer and Carrasco, though Eppler hasn’t publicly committed to any of them having a spot (or even the three of them and others competing for, say, one spot in spring training).
“We’ll still be interested in adding starters,” Eppler said.
Among those the Mets are interested in — in addition to Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker, their own free agents — is lefthander Andrew Heaney, sources said. Eppler is familiar with Heaney from their overlapping Angels tenures.
Heaney, 31, has been a buzzy breakout candidate in recent years, including when the Yankees traded for him in 2021 (to little success) and last offseason, when he had double-digit contract offers. He landed with the Dodgers on a one-year deal and was much better, posting a 3.10 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 16 games (14 starts). He spent about half the season on the injured list with a left shoulder problem but finished the season healthy.
The other rotation question the Mets answered Thursday: They did not issue a one-year, $19.65 million qualifying offer to Walker, so he heads to the open market without any penalties attached for the team that signs him.
The Mets did extend the qualifying offer to deGrom and Bassitt, plus centerfielder Brandon Nimmo. All three are virtual locks to decline that deal because they are due to make much more via free agency.
The deadline to accept qualifying offers is 4 p.m. Tuesday. (They still will be eligible to sign a multiyear deal with the Mets.) If any of those players signs with another team, the Mets will receive an extra draft pick as compensation.
Also on Thursday, the Mets exercised their team option on righthanded reliever John Curtiss for $775,000. He figures to be in the battle for bullpen jobs come camp and brings flexibility in the form of minor-league options, so the Mets will be free to shuttle him to and from Triple-A Syracuse as needed.
They signed Curtiss, who will be 30 next season, in April under unusual but not unprecedented circumstances. The Mets knew he would not pitch at all in 2022 after having Tommy John surgery in September 2021, but they wanted to see how his rehabilitation went in case they deemed him a player worth having in 2023.
Curtiss had a 2.86 ERA in 58 appearances for the Rays, Marlins and Brewers in 2020-21. His fastball was in the mid-90s this week, according to Eppler.
“Everything has been at his accustomed level prior to the injury,” Eppler said. “So we’re in a good spot moving forward.”