The Yankees created quite the stir late in the offseason when they signed Chris Carter. The team inked the veteran slugger to a one-year, $3.5 million contract on February 7th. At the time of the signing, the fanbase seemed conflicted over the addition. Some fans were excited to have a legitimate power threat at a bargain price. Others felt that money would serve the team best shoring up other weaknesses. With the season now underway, not much has changed in terms of opinions on the backup first-baseman.
If anything, some are further convinced that the signing was a mistake. Through 28 plate appearances, Carter’s posted a weak batting line of .160/.214/.240. That’s complete with a 28.6% strikeout rate. He’s also yet to hit one out of the park. In a strange turn of events, he picked up his first triple before his first home run. Granted, the Rays had a few defensive miscues in there.
That performance won’t endear you to many fans. It also doesn’t help that this comes after an anemic spring training. He managed a .140/.234/.281 triple-slash with just two home runs in Grapefruit League play. Carter will never be a hitter who runs up a high batting average. He’s a slugger through and through. The Yankees haven’t seen that yet, and it makes sense if fans and the front office alike are starting to get antsy.
Carter drew ire from fans when Joe Girardi penciled him into the lineup on Monday against the Chicago White Sox. He played first base in place of Greg Bird, who hit his first home run of the season the night before. It was a questionable decision to sit Bird after making such solid contact, but ultimately it proved the correct move. The Yankees faced Derek Holland, a southpaw who is especially tough on left-handed batters. It made the most sense to start Carter, despite his weak showing to date.
It’s important to remember that he’s only appeared in eight regular season games. Carter’s a notoriously slow starter who owns a career batting line of .197/.290/.393 for the months of March and April. His 16 home runs are the fewest of any month in his career. If anything, these numbers are skewed by an outlier April 2016, which saw Carter hit .257/.341/.581 with five home runs. Perspective is key.
Carter finds himself in a difficult position. He’s backing up a popular, young first baseman, one who could very well be a franchise cornerstone. He’s also a flawed veteran on a quasi-rebuilding team. Fans have bought into the youth movement, and Carter isn’t a long-term piece. His power is worth believing in, though. It should present itself in due time.
The Yankees won’t alter their usage of Carter just yet. It’s far too early to think about shortening the leash on players struggling in April. That’s especially true when considering a perennial 40 home run talent. Carter needs more at-bats to get going. It might take time, and it might come at the expense of resting Bird, which will be an unpopular decision. His track record, however, indicates that patience will be rewarded.
Data courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.