After last night’s game, the Yankees announced that first baseman/DH Chris Carter has been designated for assignment. He’ll be replaced by prospect Tyler Austin, who returns to the majors for the first time this year.
Carter was a surprising non-tender after providing the Brewers with 41 home runs last year. The streaky, strikeout-prone slugger ultimately landed in New York on a one-year, $3.5MM deal. Unfortunately for player and team, the results simply haven’t been there this year.
Through 189 plate appearances, Carter has managed eight home runs along with a 70:18 K/BB rate. He has always had a huge amount of swing and miss in his game, but in his more productive years has been able to draw a few more walks while striking out with a bit less frequency. Plus, Carter is bringing a sub-.200 isolated slugging mark that lands well shy of his .241 career average.
All said, the .204/.286/.383 slash that Carter has provided is just not enough output for the Yankees. While defensive metrics grade him as a more-or-less average defender at first, he doesn’t provide any versatility and the Yanks already have a full-time DH in Matt Holliday.
As for Austin, he has already showed some capacity for hitting in the majors after turning in a .241/.300/.458 batting line with five home runs over ninety plate appearances last season. He also struck out 36 times in that stint, and strikeouts remain the big question facing the 25-year-old.
Thus far at Triple-A, Austin has battered International League pitching to the tune of a .292/.355/.552 batting line. That’s actually shy of his output there last year, when he delivered similarly impressive power numbers while also walking at a 13.7% rate and striking out at a 25.2% clip. So far in 2017, Austin is going down on strikes in nearly three of ten plate appearances while drawing free passes less than ten percent of the time.
The hope had never been for Carter to handle regular duties at first base, but he was thrust into the role when Greg Bird struggled and then went down to injury. While Bird works back toward a hopeful return, and with the trade deadline looming, the Yankees decided to make a change. Even if Austin shows himself worthy of a roster spot, it’s possible to imagine the Yankees dabbling in the trade market — particularly if there’s a power left-handed bat available to provide a complement to the existing right-handed-hitting options. Of course, there are other needs as well — especially at third base and in the rotation — so the Yanks’ course remains unclear at this point.