The Yankees are “keeping tabs on” one of the best free agents remaining on the board, first baseman Chris Carter, and have had talks with agent Dave Stewart, sources told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
Even though he co-led the National League with 41 home runs last season, the 30-year-old Carter has struggled to generate strong interest since the Brewers non-tendered him in late November. Milwaukee would have owed Carter an estimated $8.1MM in arbitration in 2017, which the club deemed too rich for the flawed slugger. Few provide more thump than Carter, who has swatted at least 24 homers in each of his four full seasons, and he also brings above-average patience, having walked in 11.6 percent of career plate appearances. However, he has posted strikeout percentages in the low-30s and contact rates in the mid-60s in each of his major league seasons, leading to an unsightly .218 batting average and a below-average .314 on-base percentage. Moreover, the lumbering Carter doesn’t offer value as either a defender or baserunner, which has made it all the more difficult for him to find work this offseason.
As a right-handed hitter, Carter would complement the Yankees’ likely starting first baseman, the lefty-swinging Greg Bird, and give the team proven insurance if the latter struggles in his first full season. The 24-year-old Bird excelled over 178 plate appearances in 2015, his rookie year, but he missed all of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Another homegrown talent, the righty-hitting Tyler Austin, is primed to platoon with Bird, though he has only totaled 90 big league PAs and has two minor league options remaining. New York’s next best option is high-profile free agent signing Matt Holliday, but the longtime outfielder has minimal first base experience (10 games, all of which came last season) and is set to serve as the club’s designated hitter.
It’s worth noting, too, that the Yankees lack power threats outside of catcher Gary Sanchez, Holliday, Bird and unproven outfielder Aaron Judge, so picking up Carter – who paced the NL in ISO (.277) last season – would address that. The Yankees are mindful of the luxury tax, though, as Crasnick notes, which could prevent a deal from happening. As of now, Carter has several single-year offers worth $2.5MM to $3MM in hand, but he’s waiting for a more lucrative proposal to come along, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter links).