The Yankees and first baseman Chris Carter agreed to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million on Tuesday, as the slugger will return to the American League after spending a year with the Brewers. The deal also includes up to $500K in bonuses based on plate appearances, and will become official pending a physical.
Despite leading the National League with 41 home runs last season, Carter’s value took a significant hit with his 206 strikeouts and .222 batting average. His poor play at first base also didn’t help his case, as his 11 errors at the position was tied for the most in the National League. He was non-tendered by the Brewers in November, as he was projected to earn over $8 million through arbitration.
Carter struggled in free agency as a late addition to a market loaded with power bats, unable to find a team willing to give him a multiyear deal. The market was in fact so cold for the 30-year-old slugger that he was even rumored to be exploring his options in Japan.
Yet Carter’s major league career will continue in New York, as he will likely start the season in a platoon with the 24-year-old Greg Bird, who missed all of last season recovering from shoulder surgery. Bird showed promise after being called up at the end of the 2015 season, as Yankees GM Brian Cashman had previously called the left-handed hitter the best-hitting prospect in their organization.
The Yankees clearly wanted insurance in case Bird struggles to find a rhythm after a year off from baseball, and the right-handed-hitting Carter should fit nicely into a lefty/righty platoon. The Yankees also may have wanted a proven source of power in their lineup, with most of the potential power in their lineup coming from their youngsters in Bird, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge.
Carter should continue to produce the low-average, high-home run seasons he has delivered throughout his seven-year career, especially in the home run friendly Yankee Stadium. Even if he exclusively plays against lefties, his batting average will remain in the low .200’s as his average against lefties last season was still an atrocious .224.
This move came as a surprise to most Yankee fans, as the team seemed set to head into the season with Bird splitting time with the 25-year-old Tyler Austin, a right-handed hitter. Austin earned a promotion to the majors last season after re-establishing himself as a top prospect in the organization with a strong Triple-A season.
Despite showing promise at the major league level, the Carter move likely pushes Austin to Triple-A with two more option years left on his contract. He could however compete with Aaron Judge for the right-field gig, if Judge continues to struggle with his plate discipline this spring.*
*Statistics from MLB.com
-Featured image from CBS Los Angeles