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Cubs Pipeline Alchemy: The Matt Carasiti conundrum

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Carasiti’s been good at Triple-A. But he’s in a numbers crunch at Iowa. Will he get a shot with the Cubs, or somewhere else?

Reliever Matt Carasiti is tossing his way through the PCL
Dylan Heuer

Baseball’s is a long season. Depth is an asset for any organization. That teams have a varied amount of said depth is a given. How teams use that depth to better themselves is one of those invisible ways to improve, or not improve. The Cubs have quite a degree of depth in Triple-A. If they can find a way to get some value from their Des Moines depth, they can add a few lottery tickets on the cheap. This is a look at one of those options, reliever Matt Carasiti.

Carasiti was a sixth-round Rockies draft pick in 2012 out of St. John’s, and was acquired by the Cubs in a designated-for-assignment-caused trade. The Rockies received James Farris, who hasn’t played professionally in a game since 2017, and Carasiti spent time in 2017 in the back-end of 2017 in Des Moines. Carasiti was sold to the Yakult Swallows of NPB for 2018, and re-signed on a minor league deal with the Cubs this past offseason. Carasiti isn’t on the Cubs 40-man roster, nor does he figure to be any time soon. Nonetheless, he’s been better than the Pacific Coast League so far.

If baseball didn’t have specific mechanisms like the 40-man roster, Carasiti (who has MLB experience) would likely merit a look. However, the I-Cubs bullpen is deep, with Dakota Mekkes, James Norwood, Rowan Wick, Tim Collins, and Dillon Maples in front of him. Carasiti is buried in plain sight in Des Moines on a team in first place, having won 20 of 30. After allowing runs in his first three games, his last six have been scoreless, surrendering only one walk over those ten innings, with four hits and eight strikeouts.

His numbers aren’t a “screaming buy” to get a call-up. However, as contenders wrestle to find enough quality arms to fill out bullpens around injuries and league limitations, Carasiti seems like he has earned an opportunity he’s unlikely to get. Teams are mostly prone to cycling through the talent already at their disposal. Perhaps they’ll toss a cash fee for a player available on the waiver wire. Or, if they can purge a non-entity to a non-contending team, they’ll add a reliever, that way.’

The Carasiti Conundrum is a bit different, though. If he keeps this level of efficiency up all season, the Cubs might add him to the 40-man roster themselves, after the season. It’s probably a thirty-seventy coin-flip. The Cubs have no immediacy in trading Carasiti, and since teams won’t likely trade anything of value to add him, so it goes.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Draft pick trades, which are permitted in basketball, football, and hockey, aren’t usually permitted in baseball. Less than half the league can trade a draft pick every year, and they only have one per season. The Cubs aren’t one of those teams. In a case like Carasiti, it would seem some team, scrounging for a decent reliever, ought to be able to make a trade of something other than “cash considerations” for Carasiti.

Simply, unless the cash fee is rather large (the Cubs likely received almost seven figures when Carasiti jumped to Japan), the Cubs will happily keep Carasiti in Iowa. That keeps him in-house, but doesn’t get him on the way to qualifying for arbitration. Does the inability to come up with creative ways to acquire talent help Carasiti? I’m not seeing it.

A Triple-A pitcher with a 2.03 ERA ought to have some sort of method to major league ball. A team that really ought to be interested in a player like Carasiti is the Miami Marlins. Their bullpen has struggled. Carasiti has years of control, if he figures it out. With months to go in 2019, he could learn some important lessons on the cheap. He wouldn’t cost much to acquire. However, the Marlins would need to give the Cubs a reason to budge. A reserve outfielder in A-Ball wouldn’t get it done, nor should it.

It would be nice if teams prioritized “adding useful talent” to the extent that players like Carasiti were sought out for something other than a cash fee. Would he do well? You’ve got me. Some teams have low-leverage arms with less recent upper-minor league chops than Carasiti, but nothing happens. Would the ability to acquire talent for a 12th or 18th Round draft choice make trades easier to make? They should, but baseball often changes slowly. I wish players who have been recently successful in the minors had a more realistic way to MLB per diem, with their MLB team getting a bit of a rake for their efforts.