After a lengthy trip through free agency, first baseman/designated hitter Chris Carter has found a new home. The Yankees announced on Thursday that they’ve signed the Sports Management Partners client to a one-year deal, confirming previous reports of the agreement. Carter will reportedly be guaranteed $3.5MM on the new contract. The deal is also reported to contain up to $500K worth of incentives; Carter will earn $100K for reaching each of 250, 300, 350, 400 and 450 plate appearances.
New York is adding the National League’s 2016 co-leader in home runs in Carter, who swatted 41 long balls as a member of the Brewers. Despite that, Milwaukee elected to non-tender Carter in late November after it couldn’t find a taker for him via trade. Carter would have made a projected $8.1MM this year via arbitration, so the Yankees are landing him at a discounted rate after he sat on the open market for over two months.
The Yankees will be the fifth organization for the 30-year-old Carter, a 2005 White Sox draft pick who debuted with the Athletics in 2010 and has hit no fewer than 24 homers in any individual season since 2013, his first full campaign in the majors. Along with his prodigious power (he also led the NL in ISO last season), Carter provides above-average patience, having drawn walks at an 11.6 percent clip in his career.
Power and patience aside, there’s no value to be found elsewhere in Carter’s game, as he has registered strikeout percentages in the low-30s and contact rates in the mid-60s in each of his big league seasons. Both his difficulty putting the ball in play and lack of speed have helped lead to a low batting average (.218) and underwhelming on-base percentage (.314) in 2,645 PAs. In the field, Carter has accounted for minus-19 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-15.5 Ultimate Zone Rating in 3,400-plus innings at first base.
Despite his defensive issues, Carter seems likely to be a prominent part of the Yankees’ equation at first base, as fellow free agent pickup Matt Holliday is set to be their primary designated hitter. The right-handed-hitting Carter is clearly a more established option than likely starter Greg Bird, a lefty-swinger who could platoon with Carter. And it remains to be seen how Bird will bounce back after missing all of last season because of a shoulder injury. The Yankees also have another homegrown first baseman in righty Tyler Austin, but he has a pair of minor league options remaining and could head to the Triple-A level now that Carter’s in the fold.
Although Carter’s deal is only for a single year, the Yankees can actually control him through the 2018 season if they want. Carter, after all, still has another season of arbitration eligibility remaining. For now, he’ll join catcher Gary Sanchez, Holliday, Bird and outfielder Aaron Judge as the Bombers’ best power threats.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.