Although no official announcement had come from the White Sox, the remaining four arbitration-eligible players in Bobby Jenks, John Danks, Tony Pena and Carlos Quentin were fully expected to be tendered a contract.
Carrasco, 32, knew the possibility of being non-tendered existed as early as when his agent sat down with the White Sox on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings during their primary contractual negotiation. When J.J. Putz officially joined the bullpen on Friday and with the South Siders near their budget limit, Carrasco understood a pure business move where his work was concerned might follow.
But the move by the White Sox to make Carrasco a free agent actually should turn out to be a boon for his career. In 2009, when the White Sox were shaky at both the fourth and fifth starter spots for much of the campaign, Carrasco became a savior in long relief and logged the most innings, 89 1/3 by any American League reliever.
Those starting issues don't figure to be a problem in 2010 for Chicago, featuring one of the AL's best starting rotations on paper. Getting only 40 or 45 innings in that middle-relief role would not set up Carrasco very well for the following offseason.
"You want to be in a place where you are wanted and needed," Carrasco said. "The White Sox probably still wanted me, but didn't need me.
"I love playing the game, but you've got to be smart, and there's just not a lot of longevity in middle relief. It's about closing and starting and setting up. I feel I can really help a team, and it will be an interesting learning experience seeing what teams think of me."
A number of options exist for the White Sox to fill Carrasco's vacancy. Right-hander Daniel Hudson, who turns 23 on March 9, worked his way through four Minor League teams as a starter last season before reaching the Majors. Minor League pitching coordinator Kirk Champion said Hudson never had any issues on his side days, meaning he was fairly resilient and should be able to handle that swing role of middle relief/spot starter.
Hudson will go to Spring Training as a starter, and if the White Sox want to keep him on every fifth day at Triple-A Charlotte at the season's outset, Carlos Torres could become the man in the middle. Sergio Santos also presents an interesting option, with the converted infielder and Arizona's first-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft featuring a 98-mph fastball during Arizona Fall League action. This conversion project might not have enough control of his secondary pitches to contribute, at this point, although he is out of options.
"It's too bad this couldn't have been done when he had an option left," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams, when asked about Santos at the Winter Meetings.
Other familiar names on Major League Baseball's non-tender list include Brian Anderson, Jeremy Reed, Neal Cotts, Mike MacDougal and Lance Broadway.
Jack Cust, who was non-tendered by the A's after earning $2.8 million in 2009, could be of interest to the White Sox. The left-handed-hitting power bat has a career .374 on-base percentage as a designated hitter/outfielder combination, and has launched 84 home runs over the past three seasons. Cust also has 546 strikeouts during that time frame.
As for Carrasco, he was surprised by the decision but also looks forward to the ensuing challenge -- hopefully as part of a starting rotation.
"There are other things I feel I can do, not just being a long man," Carrasco said. "But I praise the White Sox for giving me an opportunity.
"One of the reasons I'm going to miss Chicago is the passion and knowledge of the White Sox fans," said Carrasco, when asked if he had heard of fans' disappointment over his departure. "It holds a special place in my heart that they wanted me back."