The Indians are interested in recently non-tendered sluggers Pedro Alvarez and Chris Carter, reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Were the Tribe to agree to a deal with either player, the team would view him primarily as a designated hitter, per Hoynes’ report.
As Hoynes notes, Cleveland has not deployed a full-time designated hitter since the days of Travis Hafner, with manager Terry Francona’s tendency having been to utilize the DH spot as a means of resting regulars and playing matchups against opposing pitchers. Bringing either free agent into the mix would add some thump to a team that ranked 22nd in the Majors in home runs last season (141). Production from the DH spot wasn’t a problem for Cleveland last season, but much of the offense they received came from a platoon of Ryan Raburn and David Murphy, neither of whom remains with the club.
While both Alvarez and Carter could technically see occasional action at first base should Carlos Santana need a breather or fall to an injury, each is a defensive liability. Alvarez committed 23 errors in just over 900 innings at first base last season and posted Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved marks of -14. Carter was better than Alvarez in a similar sample of innings, though he was decisively below average.
From a platoon perspective, the right-handed Carter has the far more balanced splits of the two. While he’d provide solid power production versus both righties and lefties, he typically strikes out more than Alvarez and hits for a lower average.
The left-handed Alvarez is a better hitter when holding the platoon advantage than Carter is versus pitchers of either handedness. He’s best deployed with a platoon partner (career 68 wRC+ vs. LHP), though that of course would mean dedicating two roster spots to the DH situation, and Cleveland already declined to bring back a strong right-handed platoon bat in the form of Raburn. Then again, Chris Johnson is already on the roster and could be utilized to form a solid platoon with Alvarez.
While both players have their flaws, either would add an element of game-changing power to the Cleveland lineup that currently isn’t present. Alvarez ranks 11th in the Majors in home runs dating back to 2012 (111), while Carter checks in at 15th (106). Both players have a 35-homer season to their credit, making them two of just 27 players in all of Major League Baseball to have reached that mark in that four-year span.