Feb. 1: Despite Stewart’s comments, Carter “made it clear” to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM that he wants to play in Major League Baseball as opposed to signing a contract overseas (Twitter link).
Jan. 31, 10:48pm: Topkin writes that Stewart told him as recently as tonight that nothing was close between Carter and the Rays. As Topkin explains, Tampa Bay is taking its time in evaluating multiple right-handed bats for a spot on their roster.
6:08pm: It’s been a slow-moving market for slugger Chris Carter this winter, and agent Dave Stewart (the former Diamondbacks GM who has resumed control of his agency since being replaced in Arizona) tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that signing in Japan is a possibility. “I think at some point we have to make it a serious consideration,” said Stewart, who also tells Rosenthal that Carter received interest from Japanese clubs last winter before signing with the Brewers.
Carter hit .222/.321/.499 and tied Nolan Arenado for the National League lead with 41 home runs in 2016, but Milwaukee elected not to tender him a contract for the 2017 season. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected an $8.1MM salary for Carter, and Carter’s glut of strikeouts (an NL-high 206) and lack of defensive value led the Brewers to consider a raise of that nature too steep.
The rest of the league, it seems, has generally agreed with the Brewers’ assessment, as there’s hardly been a robust market for his services. That this offseason’s free-agent market was teeming with defensively limited sluggers certainly couldn’t have helped Carter’s case, but it’s nonetheless a bit surprising that his camp is giving consideration to signing overseas.
Rosenthal cites Stewart and other league sources as stating that the Rays offer the best opportunity for Carter at this point. Stewart tells Rosenthal he’s spoken with Tampa Bay enough to “know what they’re thinking” but adds that talks haven’t advanced just yet. That gels with a recent tweet from Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, who reported that while the Rays are considering many options, nothing is close with Carter or with fellow right-handed slugger Mike Napoli.
Rosenthal writes that the Rangers, another potential fit, are seemingly more focused on Napoli and have told Stewart that they may rotate younger players at first base (which would be a poor outcome for both Carter and Napoli). Perhaps the Rangers would take a more serious look at Carter in the event that Napoli signed elsewhere, but Napoli has seemingly struggled to find a multi-year deal all winter, and most teams have filled their first base and designated hitter voids already.
The Yankees, for instance, signed Matt Holliday to a one-year deal at the start of the Winter Meetings, while the Astros signed Carlos Beltran to a similar pact and also acquired Brian McCann from New York (pushing Evan Gattis further into the DH mix). Boston filled its first base/DH void by inking Mitch Moreland to a one-year deal (he’ll pair with Hanley Ramirez), while the Rockies went outside the box and signed Ian Desmond to be their regular first baseman. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, quickly grabbed Kendrys Morales to replace Edwin Encarnacion, only to see Encarnacion’s market stagnate to the extent that the Indians were able to land him on a three-year, $60MM deal.
More recently, the Royals agreed to a two-year deal with Brandon Moss, removing yet another on-paper fit. And the Orioles, a once-popular prediction as Carter’s ultimate landing spot, re-signed Mark Trumbo and acquired Seth Smith, thus making it hard to see Carter fitting into the picture.
And yet despite all that movement, Carter and Napoli are hardly alone as first baseman/designated hitters remaining in free agency. Pedro Alvarez, Logan Morrison, Adam Lind, Mark Reynolds, Billy Butler, Justin Morneau and Ryan Howard are all still on the market and hoping to find jobs for the 2017 season, giving the few teams with interest in that type of player a good bit of leverage in negotiations with agents.
Looking around the league, the White Sox could still theoretically fit Carter as a designated hitter, while the Mariners could weigh the merits of signing him as an upgrade over the unproven Dan Vogelbach. The Marlins still don’t have a right-handed complement to Justin Bour at first base, though they’re said to be at their payroll capacity. The A’s, conceivably, could push Yonder Alonso to the bench and pair Carter with Ryon Healy at first base/DH, but there hasn’t been any serious talk of a reunion there. Those four teams, however, are mere speculation on my own behalf. Given the saturated market for sluggers and the fact that no team was willing to trade for Carter when his salary was projected to be in the $8MM range, it does seem possible that the best financial offer he’ll receive this winter could come from an overseas club.