New York Yankees Agree to Sign Chris Carter to One-Year Deal

The New York Yankees have struck a deal with last season’s NL home run leader, agreeing to a one-year contract with slugger Chris Carter.

Any New York Yankees fan will tell you that the team hasn’t always felt like the “Bronx Bombers” over the past few seasons. After leading the majors with 245 home runs in 2012, the Yanks plummeted to 22nd with only 144 round-trippers the following year. They hit 147 homers in 2014 to move up to 12th, and climbed all the way back up fourth in 2015 by mashing 212 bombs. But last year was another downer, as the Yanks finished 19th in baseball with 183 home runs. And 20 of those came in rookie phenom Gary Sanchez‘s flurry over the final two months.

However, the Yankees added some more muscle to their lineup by reportedly agreeing to a one-year, $3 million contract with free agent first baseman Chris Carter, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The deal comes with a $500,000 signing bonus and incentives based on plate appearances.

Carter led the National League in 2016 with 41 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers. You would think a league’s reigning home run king wouldn’t be hard-pressed to find work the following offseason. But that’s exactly the situation Carter found himself in, as his well-known shortcomings kept teams at bay until the month of February. There was even talk of a move to Japan.

His power has never been in question, as Carter has swatted 131 homers over the past four seasons, averaging a healthy 33 per campaign. While that’s certainly a valuable skill in its own right, Carter doesn’t bring much of anything else to the table. Typical of many all-out sluggers, Carter strikes out a ton: 33.1 percent of the time in his seven-year major league career, to be precise.

Aside from his prodigious home run total and 94 RBI, Carter managed a meager .222 batting average and .321 on-base percentage in 160 games for the Brew Crew last season. Over a third of his 122 hits were of the round-trip variety. He has posted a solid 11.6 percent walk rate in his career, but in general there’s not much dimension to Carter’s game.

If the Yankees are adding Carter purely for the home runs, they’re not likely to be disappointed, especially in the launch pad that is Yankee Stadium. While the venue is usually kindest to lefties with its short right-field porch, Carter did a fairly good job of spreading his homers around the field last year, so he should still be able to benefit. With Sanchez and Matt Holliday as well, the Yanks suddenly have some right-handed power on that roster.

Carter will also give the club some insurance at first base as Greg Bird returns after missing all of 2016 with a shoulder injury. Tyler Austin and even Holliday were expected to get opportunities there in the event Bird wasn’t ready to hit the ground running. Carter’s playing time will likely depend on Bird’s overall health and performance. If the youngster is swinging the bat well and showing no ill effects from last year’s surgery, Carter may not see much playing time.

The designated hitter spot and outfield could provide him some more chances to get in the lineup, but Carter will have plenty of competition there as well with Holliday, Austin and Aaron Hicks all in the fold. Sanchez is also a prime candidate to DH on days he doesn’t catch. If Aaron Judge continues to struggle at the major league level, that could present an opening for Carter.

On a one-year deal at a bargain rate, Chris Carter isn’t a bad gamble for the Yankees in light of the power surge he could provide. In all likelihood, he’s probably not moving the needle much one way or the other this season.

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