When Carlos Carrasco signed an extension this week that delays potential free agency by as much as three years, some were surprised that we was willing to severely diminish the chances that he ever gets the kind of contract most players probably dream of. A report today from Ken Rosenthal reveals that Carrasco underwent a procedure in an attempt to correct a heart condition last fall and has been taking medication, and that fears about his own health motivated Carrasco to gain as much financial security now as he could.
Carrasco, 28, began feeling heart palpitations shortly after the season ended, and on October 7 he underwent a 7-hour procedure at the Cleveland Clinic. The procedure was considered a success, but left Carrasco somewhat shaken. By spring training he was off the medication he'd been given, but at some point the palpitations returned. Going back on the medication stabilized his condition, but Carrasco's own concern remained. His wife recently gave birth to Carrasco's fourth child, and given his own health concerns (limited not only to the heart condition, but also the knowledge that he's already undergone Tommy John surgery, and knows how realistic it is for a pitcher to lose an entire season or more of potential earnings) and his somewhat up and down career, he wanted to guarantee himself and his family money that would ensure they are comfortable for life.
The extension guarantees Carrasco $22 million over the next four years, but puts a limit of somewhere between $40-45 million on his earnings over the next six seasons (unless the Indians decline their option on him and another team signs him for more money, which is highly unlikely), by the end of which his prime will be well behind him. If he'd been healthy during the next three seasons, and been an above average starting pitcher, he might have made nearly double that total over the next six years, with higher arbitration payments and then hitting free agency at a young enough age to secure a big contract.
The other side of this risk/reward scenario is the team. Clearly management/ownership are comfortable enough with the medical reports to extend the $22 million in guaranteed money, when they could have just paid him the $2.3375 million he'd already signed for this year, and then just waited to see what happened.
There's always risk for a pitcher, but not always this much. In that light, this extension comes as no surprise.