The Cleveland Guardians have not been very active this offseason with their free-agent acquisitions, but they did bring back a familiar face and fan favorite that could end up being a worthwhile reunion. Carlos Carrasco has signed a minor-league deal with the Guardians that includes an invitation to spring training. Carrasco has spent the last three seasons with the New York Mets after being included in the trade that sent Francisco Lindor to Queens.
On the surface, this acquisition does not seem like all that much. A 36-year-old pitcher coming off a season with his second-worst ERA (6.80) and third-worst WHIP (1.700) is not necessarily going to move the needle. With that being said, no one should expect Cookie to be reinserted as an integral part of their rotation. That is assuming he makes the team out of Spring Training.
While it may not be wise to count on Carrasco's six-year-long pattern alternating between effectiveness and ineffectiveness, it should be noted that he is in a position for a bounceback year should it continue. Cookie has shown multiple times that is capable of pitching at a level more similar to that of his 3.97 ERA and 1.329 WHIP in 2022, and getting something closer to that rather than his 2023 performance would be a massive win.
An ideal role for Carrasco at this point in his career would be that of a spot starter, sixth man in the rotation (if needed), injury replacement, and/or late-season fill-in if any of their young starters (Gavin Williams, Tanner Bibee, Logan Allen) reach an innings limit that may be imposed before the season. With the amount of injuries Cleveland's rotation sustained last season, this is not a bad option to have in their back pocket should they go this route.
There is another aspect to Carrasco's return that could prove to be valuable. Experience. Having someone who has been part of a competitive team in Cleveland in the past should help as the organization transitions from the Terry Francona era into the Stephen Vogt era. The Guardians are still a very young team that will need some veteran leadership in the dugout to help Cleveland's new manager navigate his way through his first season. Even if Carrasco is sparingly used, his presence alone will be worth keeping him around.