There is one free agent looking to re-sign with his old team, that everyone hasn’t been able to keep their eyes off. That being, of course, a potential Matt Carpenter return to the Yankees. How likely is it that the veteran lefty follows in the footsteps of a few of his old pals from this season in a return to the Bronx? Carpenter had a bit of a career renaissance in his 154 plate appearances this year, which was unfortunately cut short by a broken foot in August that cost him the rest of the regular season. The question for possible suitors now is to what degree might his success continue, and would he remain a good fit in New York?
At this moment in time, almost all of the appeal with re-signing him is dependent on your belief in his stellar 2022. In all fairness, he really was amazing this year, albeit in a quarter year’s worth of PA, slashing an absurd .305/.412/.727. In that time, his 217 wRC+ was the best among all hitters across the sport with a minimum of 150 PA. That is a significant caveat, but that is also no small feat in almost any reasonable sample size. Carpenter also maintained a solid and characteristic 12.3 percent walk rate, while keeping his strikeout rate lower than it has been since his prime years with the Cardinals.
The now-37-year-old had been a star level player for significant stretches in his time with St. Louis. He was an All-Star three times, and twice finished inside the top 10 in MVP voting. However, that mostly dissipated after his impressive 36-homer 2018 campaign. His seasons following that were well below-average, and getting progressively worse.
It has been well documented, but Carpenter put in a lot of work this offseason resurrecting his swing. After winding up on the Yankees’ major league roster, it was shown to have paid huge dividends, and netting him a new lease on his playing career. His batted ball profile from 2022 doesn’t jump off the page relative to his other years of success, suggesting he may have run into some good fortune as well. Although, it can’t be denied that the changes he made had a massive impact.
Regardless of the luck in play, re-signing him also presents an opportunity to the Yankees to name their right field foul pole in his honor:
It’s not a perfectly ideal situation to bring Carpenter back either, in all fairness. He just turned 37 in November, and expecting him to do anything really even close to what he did in ‘22 would be unrealistic. Not to mention the fact that coming into this year he hadn’t been a productive big league hitter in three years. Realistically, he might be something more like a 115ish wRC+ guy in a mostly part-time role, which is no doubt a valuable position to fill, just not quite the Bondsian numbers he was putting up this year.
One important thing to consider, is that whatever deal he would possibly get with the Yankees would come with very minimal risk. FanGraphs’ crowdsourced projections has him getting something like one year for $6 million, which feels about right. There’s basically no such thing as a bad one-year deal, especially when the money is so low. For a guy who can play a few positions when needed, and is coming off of a promising mini renaissance, that could be very appealing for New York. He was an important part of the lineup for a stretch last year, why not make a low-stakes bet on that to happen again?
Matt Carpenter was one of the most surprising and pleasant surprises of 2022 for the Yanks, and it was well timed for him, as he’ll likely get a nice little pay day out of it — something he probably didn’t expect a year ago. Given how well things went for him in the Bronx this season, the positive memories from both parties would make a reunion make a lot of sense for 2023.