As the offseason draws to a close, many observers have noted the number of power hitters remaining on the market as teams have seemingly devalued one-dimensional power hitters. Given the rapidly falling price for power, I wondered whether a cheap power hitter made sense for the Yankees. This morning, EJ wrote about the Yankees’ potential interest in Chris Carter. As it turns out, where there’s smoke, there’s fire: the Yankees have reportedly signed Chris Carter to a 1-year Major League Deal for $3.5 million.
Admittedly, I am a little surprised that the Yankees decided to sign Carter. On the surface, it does seem to take away at-bats from one of Tyler Austin, Greg Bird, or Aaron Judge. Judge may seem like a strange name to include in this list since Yankee fans have assumed that if Judge is not ready to begin the year with the Yanks, Aaron Hicks could step in and hold the fort until the Yankees deemed him ready to contribute. While that line of thinking has real merit, the potential exists that in the event that Judge struggles in Spring Training, the Yankees could decide to slide Matt Holliday to the OF at least part-time and allow Carter to DH, particularly given Carter’s poor track record defensively, even at 1B.
I have been torn for much of the offseason regarding the Yankees’ approach to Free Agency. On one hand, I am bursting with excitement to finally witness the Yankee youth movement that has been promised for years. On the other hand, it’s not hard to justify what some power and pitching depth could do for the Yankees’ record in the near-term. The balance between competing this year and properly integrating youth into the Yankee lineup is a delicate one. I would love nothing more than for Bird and Judge to get 500+ ABs while Tyler Austin emerges as at least a productive platoon option. Much of the Yankee’s future depends on at least one of these three players turning into an above-average everyday option.
Despite that, I agree with EJ that the Yankees made the right move. I actually think that it would have been more difficult to resist Carter at such a low price point. Given 400+ ABs at 1B/DH, Carter is likely a 1-1.5 WAR player who provides needed thump and can protect and take pressure off of Gary Sanchez. There is no question but that Carter lengthens the lineup, something the Yankees need with the uncertainty in their rotation. As EJ rightly noted, Carter will not block one of the kids if they prove they are ready for consistent Major League time. In fact, Carter will add competition for a spot on the roster during Spring Training, which I think is a good experience for a young player. Carter can provide insurance for both the potential that Greg Bird’s shoulder barks and Judge and Austin struggle out of the gate. And if by June, the kids prove to be world-beaters who require more playing time? The Yankees flip Carter to a team in the playoff hunt in need of power. I think Carter is a win-win for the Yankees. Let’s hope we see a lot of this at Yankee Stadium this summer: