As announced this week, the Yankees made a surprising move by signing Chris Carter to a $3 million deal. He had his market crater so much that Brian Cashman felt it was worthwhile to pick him up for cheap and worry about where he will play later. Still, though, what does this mean for the team’s roster as we get closer to spring training?
First of all, Carter will have to be added to the 40-man roster before anything else happens. I imagine he will take the spot of either Johnny Barbato or Richard Bleier, with the latter the most likely to go. Bleier would probably be re-signed on a minor league deal in that instance.
When determining who he will compete against in spring training, it comes down to three roles. Cashman recently stated that Carter will serve as another option against left-handed pitching, without specifically mentioning at what position he will be playing. He is obviously not a good fielder anywhere, but nevertheless, he is considered a first baseman and outfielder. His presence could mean something to three—maybe four—players on the team right now.
The easy name to bring up is Tyler Austin, who was likely destined to be the runner-up in the first base competition. He seemed like a possible option for a bench role as a right-handed hitter and backup first baseman, but Carter has far more power potential. Austin looked to be effective against major league left-handed pitching in the two months he spent with the team. However, Cashman could be looking to a far greater sample size to make the decision.
For Greg Bird, it all just comes down to how healthy he is in the spring. He missed all of 2016 with a torn labrum and his return in the AFL proved to be somewhat underwhelming. He looked healthy in the fall, and Cashman is openly rooting for him to take the first base job, so he could ultimately be safe from losing his role to Carter. What is very possible is that the two serve in a platoon until Bird proves he is back to his old self.
The Yankees are not likely to do a bait-and-switch on Matt Holliday, though Carter definitely fits in as a DH far better than anywhere else. They are both right-handed hitters, so there won’t be any platoon here, but Holliday may require more days off at this point in his career.
Now here’s a crazier idea: What if this now frees the Yankees to make a trade? Cashman already said something about Holliday being able to play the field. What if the acquisition of Carter allowed them to move Brett Gardner for some kind of pitching? They could install Holliday in left, like Carlos Beltran in right (I am not advising this to happen), and Carter would fill in as the everyday designated hitter. Who knows.
The Yankees probably don’t yet have a plan in place with regards to who will get more or less playing time now that someone new is in the fold. They really don’t even have to make a decision yet. Let things play out. If Bird looks healthy and ready, you send Austin down for now and let Carter be the backup. If Bird looks bad out there, then you panic, because Carter cannot play the field regularly. Maybe Holliday looks really old or gets hurt. We’ll see.
No matter what ends up happening, the more playing time Chris Carter gets the better for the Yankees. He’s not necessarily a good baseball player, but he has the home run potential to actually be worth something on the trade market this summer. I’ll take another prospect or two while watching some dingers fly.