No one was criticizing Yankee general manager Brian Cashman when he signed Chris Carter to a one-year, $3.5 million deal.
Carter, after all, led the National League in 2016 with 41 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers at age 29. But his 206 strikeouts also led the NL, and caused the Brewers to non-tender him after the season.
It was late in free agency, and teams were steering clear of players with high power but high strikeout rates. Cashman decided it was worth it to take a flyer on Carter. He seemed like a worthy platoon partner if Greg Bird struggled to hit left-handed pitching.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Bird struggled to hit all kinds of pitching in his first 19 regular season games. Bird went just 6-for-60, and produced just three RBIs. He was placed on the disabled list May 2 with a right ankle contusion, and has since suffered a knee injury during his rehab assignment.
That string of injuries has forced Carter into a starting role, and it has not worked out as planned. He has hit eight home runs and driven in 23, but has struck out a whopping 66 times in 181 plate appearances. His highest average in a season is .239, achieved in part-time duty with the Oakland Athletics in 2012. This year, he’s hitting just .201 and has an on-base percentage of .287.Embed from Getty Images
He looks lost at home plate, and has struck out 21 times with runners in scoring position. He has accounted for -6.6 adjusted batting runs, which is a stat to quantify a batter’s offensive contributions. He has also made three errors at first base, two of which were missed catch errors. The Yankees cannot afford to play a first baseman who cannot catch the ball.Embed from Getty Images
At this point, the Yankees seem consigned to Carter’s struggles.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s what we have,” said manager Joe Girardi of playing Carter at first.
“Ultimately, if things don’t change over time … I’ll be forced to look outside the organization if the true answer really doesn’t reside from within,” Cashman said.
Tyler Austin, who is on the 40-man roster, is hitting .287/.357/.494 through 24 games for AAA Scranton after coming back from a fracture in his left foot. Not on the 40-man, but Korean first baseman Ji-Man Choi also seems like an upgrade with his slash-line of .283/.366/.428 for Scranton.
Outside of the organization, the Yankees may look towards the Athletics’ Yonder Alonso, the Braves’ Matt Adams or the Royals’ Eric Hosmer. As mentioned above, Cashman would rather fix the issue internally. Regardless of who the answer is, the Yankees need to try something else at first base, and end the Chris Carter experiment.Embed from Getty Images