March 19: Carpenter’s deal will pay him $2MM if he makes the big league club, per Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (via Twitter). The Rangers have officially announced the deal, including an invite to spring training.
March 18: The Rangers and free-agent infielder Matt Carpenter are in agreement on a minor league contract, tweets Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The Fort Worth native will head to Spring Training and hope to win a roster spot with his hometown club.
Carpenter, 36, was a top-10 finisher in National League MVP voting but has seen his offensive production go into a precipitous decline ever since that 36-homer season. While the lifelong Cardinal at least came within reach of league-average offensive production in 2019, his bat has evaporated over the past two years. Overall, he’s slashed just .203/.325/.346 through his past 910 trips to the plate.
Last month, Carpenter spoke with Rosenthal about the exhaustive measures he’s taken to revamp his swing mechanics and his overall approach at the plate this winter. After a lengthy chat with longtime division rival Joey Votto about Votto’s own late-30s resurgence, Carpenter set to work changing his entire process. The veteran candidly acknowledged to Rosenthal that he previously “never bought into analytics” even as his production waned. However, talking things through with Votto, former Mariners hitting coach/Dodgers hitting coordinator Tim Laker, longtime teammate Matt Holliday and others, Carpenter adopted a new approach to his training and to hitting as a whole. It’s a lengthy but excellent piece that’s well worth a full read for this interested in Carpenter’s quest to revive his career.
Time will tell whether Carpenter’s arduous offseason actually yields to gains on the field, but the Rangers should provide him with plenty of opportunity if he indeed looks sharp during Spring Training. With top third base prospect Josh Jung out six months due to shoulder surgery and presumptive starter Isiah Kiner-Falefa instead twice traded in a span of 24 hours, Texas is now looking at utilityman Andy Ibanez and recent signee Brad Miller as the likeliest candidates for playing time there. At designated hitter, oft-injured outfielder Willie Calhoun is the likeliest candidate for regular at-bats, but he’s in search of a rebound himself.
Suffice it to say, if Carpenter is able to rekindle his offensive production in Spring Training or at least impress the Rangers with his new approach at the dish, he ought to find himself with an opportunity. It’d make for a similar success story to that of Hunter Pence, another Fort Worth-area native who enjoyed a late-30s renaissance with the Rangers a few years back.