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Yankees Sign Chris Carter
- Updated: February 7, 2017
Today the New York Yankees agreed to terms with free-agent slugger Chris Carter, pending a physical of course. The deal is for 1 year/$3 million, with a $500k signing bonus, and $100k incentives for 250, 300, 350, 400, and 450 plate appearances. Barring an injury to Greg Bird or Matt Holliday I don’t suspect Carter will reach 450 PA, but if he does the deal could end up being worth an even $4 million.
The most obvious selling point for Chris Carter is his power. He co-led the national league in home runs last season with 41. His .277 ISO led the NL and was tied for third in the majors, sitting only behind David Ortiz (.305) and Brian Dozier (.278). His .222 batting average is less than inspiring, but thanks to his career 11.6% walk rate his 2016 OBP of .321 was in the neighborhood of the likes of Addison Russel and Albert Pujols. Lastly, he hits the ball hard. How hard you ask? His average exit velocity on fly balls/line drives (minimum 200 balls in play) was tied for 4th highest in the majors in 2016. He stood behind only Nelson Cruz (99.2), Josh Donaldson (97.8), David Ortiz (97.3), and he was tied with Miguel Cabrera at 97.1 mph, pretty good company.
So we know he can hit the ball hard, the catch is he doesn’t hit the ball that often. His 32.0% strikeout rate and 64.6% contact rate are pretty glaring red flags. He offers almost nothing on defense and on the bases. He has accumulated -9.8 baserunning wins in his career. In 3,402.2 career innings at first base he has -19 defensive runs saved. Luckily for the Yankees, they play in the American League and can utilize the designated hitter.
I wholeheartedly expect Matt Holliday to get a majority of the DH at bats in 2017, but Carter will likely prove to be a great insurance policy for Holliday if he were to get injured or should he need to shift into the outfield because of an injury. He could also be used as a platoon partner for Greg Bird at first base, starting vs LHP; Bird is by no means a liability against lefties but Carter provides a much greater power threat (.537 SLG% vs LHP vs Bird’s .405).
It seems strange to have someone who hit 41 home runs one season ago not sign until February, turns out teams value defense and baserunning. I think if the Yankees play to Carter’s strengths by putting him in the lineup vs. lefties and keeping him out of the field as much as possible this could prove to be one of the more underrated signings of the off-season.
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