D.J. Carrasco plays many roles in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen. He pitches long relief when a starter goes down early. He’s a mop up guy when the team is either really far behind, or really far ahead. He pitches in both clutch situations or less important middle relief roles. He can also start, although he has yet to do that this year. Carrasco is basically a utility pitcher, and a good one at that.
This explains why Carrasco leads the 2010 Pirates in innings out of the bullpen, with 54.2 innings after Saturday’s game, one more than Evan Meek, and 13 more than Joel Hanrahan. For his efforts, Carrasco is making a $950,000 guaranteed salary, although from this point forward, every appearance could drive that salary up further.
Carrasco has an interesting performance bonus structure in the contract he signed with the Pirates back in January. Carrasco is awarded points based on his appearances. An appearance of less than two innings gets him one point. An appearance of two innings or more gets him two points. A start gets him three points. Carrasco receives $25,000 once he reaches 50 points, and receives an additional $25,000 after every five points, up to 105 points.
So far this season, Carrasco has 54 points, with 34 appearances of less than two innings, and 10 appearances of two or more innings. On July 17th, Carrasco came in to replace Ross Ohlendorf in the second inning, getting two outs on a double play to end the inning. Carrasco was sent out for the third inning, and went 1-2-3. When Carrasco got the first out of the fourth inning, he reached the two inning status, which also put him at 50 points, meaning that Carrasco earned $25,000 for striking out Houston shortstop Angel Sanchez.
Since Carrasco is currently at 54 points, the next time he is called upon, regardless of what happens in the appearance, he will earn another $25,000. Carrasco is currently averaging 3.18 points per week, which means that he could easily earn an additional $200,000 from now until the end of the season, giving him $225,000 in performance bonuses, which is $75,000 shy of the $300,000 limit in his contract.
The reason Carrasco is in this situation is because he has earned the right to be called upon so frequently. Carrasco has a 3.98 ERA after tonight, with a 44:22 K/BB ratio in 54.1 innings. Those numbers are very similar to his 132 innings with the Chicago White Sox between the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Carrasco has been pitching so well that he has attracted the attention of at least five teams on the trade market, according to Rob Biertempfel.
If the Pirates choose to keep Carrasco, they’ll have him under control for two more years beyond the 2010 season. If they trade him by the deadline it will be interesting to see how other teams value a utility pitcher like Carrasco. Either way, Carrasco will be cashing in, as he’s a pitcher who is good enough to be called upon frequently, all while being able to handle the heavy workload that comes with his role.