The Yankees Took a Cheap Flier on Chris Carter
It took until February 7th, but a man who hit 41 home runs a year ago and has averaged 33 dingers over the last four seasons has finally signed a free agent contract with a new team.
And it's for a whopping one year at $3.5 million.
This seems crazy, right? I mean, how does Chris Carter, who finished as one of only seven players to hit at least 40 bombs last season, last this far into the offseason and only manage to score a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the New York Yankees? I mean, just look at how far this man can hit a baseball.
You can count on two hands the number of people who possess that kind of power at the plate. Chris Carter is country strong, and it's fair to believe he could hit 40 homers again now that he's playing at Yankee Stadium next season.
So why isn't this guy securing a five-year deal worth $100 million? Why wasn't he one of the first guys signed? Why has he languished until almost a week before spring training begins?
Because he's bad at pretty much everything else.
In 2,645 career plate appearances, Carter has a career batting average of .218. And while batting average isn't a particularly awesome stat, .218 is pretty lousy.
Last year, Carter hit .222. He had 644 plate appearances and tallied 122 hits. He had 53 singles. In 160 games.
Not only that, Carter is a strikeout machine. He has struck out in 33.1% of his career plate appearances, with last year's 32.0% strikeout rate right in line with that. He has managed an 11.6% walk rate during the course of his career, but that has only allowed him to post a career on-base percentage of .314. Last year, it was .321.
His power numbers did allow him to put up a wRC+ of 112 and a wOBA of .346 last year, both good numbers. He's a pretty good hitter, batting average and on-base percentage aside. But he is deriving almost all of his value from long balls.
Poor Defensive Metrics
Carter is a first baseman by trade, but his defense has always been a drain on whatever team he plays for.
Last year, he put up a Fangraphs defensive rating of -16.9, which made him the ninth-worst defender in baseball. The year before it was -10.6, and it was -15.5 in 2014. His worst mark came in 2013, when he posted a -20.9 rating.
He was worth -5 defensive runs saved (DRS) last season, which was the fourth-worst clip among the 17 qualified first basemen.
Those defensive ratings are why his fWAR was a mere 0.9 in 2016, despite hitting 41 home runs and knocking in 94 other citizens.
Expectations for 2017
On paper, Carter doesn't have a set-in-stone role with the Bronx Bombers.
He could platoon at first base with Greg Bird, a lefty hitter, or spend some time as a designated hitter (DH). New York also signed Matt Holliday this offseason, and he'll likely assume DH duties most of the time. Tyler Austin is also expected to be in the mix at first. Carter doesn't have much of a difference in his splits, but he hit far more dingers against right-handers (29) than southpaws (12) last season, so maybe he's not a great fit to platoon.
Bird is coming off major shoulder surgery, so maybe Carter is an insurance policy.
New PECOTA projections out from Baseball Prospectus say Carter will have 569 plate appearances and hit another 32 home runs with a .223 batting average and a WAR of 1.0.
Certainly the dingers will be most welcome. But will he hit as many in New York? Looking at the graph below indicates he may lose a few with the move.
All of Chris Carter's HRs overlaid at @Yankees Stadium... pic.twitter.com/OYwNwTj29B
— Daren Willman (@darenw) February 7, 2017
Unfortunately, the other deficiencies negate a lot of the value acquired from that power. But the Yankees paid just $3 million for his services, so a couple well-timed bombs could make him a worthwhile signing.