February is the time of year when MLB free agents who find themselves without a home have to somewhat scramble to find a decent deal. The Yankees just picked up a pretty good one in first baseman Chris Carter, who signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Yanks, according to Bob Nightengale (and confirmed by Jon Heyman). Carter tied Nolan Arenado for the National League lead with 41 homers last year, but the Brewers let him go since he can’t do much else.
The first reaction by a fan of the Yankees’ youth might be “Well that’s a waste of money. They already have Greg Bird and Tyler Austin to split first base duties, and they’ve filled their older DH quote with Matt Holliday. Carter seems redundant. So what’s the point?”
This line of thinking does not properly acknowledge the important of depth. Right now, the Yankees’ bench is just not good. Look at some of the role players of the Yankees’ most recent championship teams, and a pattern will emerge:
These we were all older, power-focused type players who were not on the playoff roster for their defense. They were there to do one thing: hit some friggin’ dingers.
Know who else can hit some dingers? A certain Vernon Christopher Carter:
He can realllllllly hit some dingers.
Gracious. That power will play anywhere.
Carter is obviously a flawed player, as he strike out a ton, he’s fairly atrocious on defense at first base, and he can’t run the bases well at all. That’s why he’s available for $3 million though, and that’s why he’s a perfect depth guy on this team at age 30. If he wants a reduced role, there is no harm in giving it to him. The bench needs a power threat like Carter because the likes of Rob Refsnyder (zero MLB homers in 175 PA last year) weren’t going to cut it.
The trio of Bird, Austin, and Holliday might have worked, but betting on them to stay healthy for all 162 games is a fool’s hope. Bird is just coming off an entire season lost due to shoulder surgery, Austin has battled wrist problems in the past, and Holliday is 37. Carter will see most of his at-bats against lefties, who he had an .875 OPS against in 2016. There will be at-bats for all four of them, even if Austin has to spend a little time in Triple-A at some point. It won’t be the end of the world.
The worst-case scenario is that Carter doesn’t take to the reduced role well, he hits terribly, and he’s gone by June or July. In the best-case, he hits 20-30 bombs and provides much-needed insurance, particularly if Holliday goes full 2013 Kevin Youkilis/Travis Hafner, which is absolutely possible. This is a fine pick-up, and it’s not going to doom the future.
Bring on the dingers, and watch out opposite-field short porch.