New York Yankees: Where Does Chris Carter Fit?

The New York Yankees came to an agreement with free agent Chris Carter on Monday, signing the reigning NL co-leader in home runs to a one year, $3M deal with $500,000 in incentives based on plate appearances. The deal is a solid depth move, but how will he fit on the Bomber’s roster?

Before signing Carter yesterday, the New York Yankees had planned to enter the season with some combination of Tyler Austin and Greg Bird at first base, Aaron Judge in right, and Matt Holliday serving as the team’s DH. With Carter on board, the roster decision may be as simple as sending fellow right-handed bat Austin to Triple-A while he has options remaining and bringing in Carter, who was certainly a bargain for the Yanks.

Assessing how effective the Bird/Carter combo will be is a tough task, as Bird missed the entire 2016 season and the only sabermetric data we have to judge him by in the big leagues is from his short stint (46 games) from 2015. Instead, lets look at what Carter did well last season and see how that can fit around Bird in the lineup. The focus in the Bronx is to get playing time for their youngsters, which should lead to a platoon, more or less.

The one tool that Carter has that is apparently worth $3M in today’s market is his power. As a right-hander, it’s likely that he will see most of his playing time against southpaws as both he and Bird have traditional splits.

Assuming that’s the case, there is hope for Yankees fans as his home run rate against lefties was slightly higher (12 in 134 plate appearances) for a rate of a home run every 11.16 plate appearances compared to his 14.31 rate against righties. His strikeout rate was also significantly lower against lefties at 26.9% to 33.7%.

In short, there are reasons to be excited about Chris Carter being used predominantly against left-handers. Even on days where Greg Bird gets the start, having Carter available on the bench with a tough lefty out of the bullpen on the mound could swing a game or two in the favor of the Yankees with some Bronx bombs.

There are going to be times when having both Carter and Bird in the lineup will make some sense, too, which will lead to some days off for Holliday. How quickly Bird gets up to speed in 2017 will likely determine how much playing time Carter ends up getting this season, and how much money the Yankees owe him overall.

Every game is going to matter in order for New York to be in the playoff discussion late in the season, as they certainly have some shortcomings that must be masked in other ways. Carter is one way for the club to mask those inefficiencies and potentially help the Yankees into a wild card spot in 2017.

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