Yankees Signing Chris Carter Creates a Massive Logjam

On Tuesday afternoon the Yankees signed free agent slugger Chris Carter to a 1-year/$3M deal. The problem is where do they play him?

Is this the impact bat Yankees fans waited for all winter long? I’m not sure. But the club was able to secure a guy coming off a 41 home run season for a bargain basement price. Perhaps this had something to do with his 206 strikeouts in 2016? Or his feeble attempts at manning first base. Or the fact that he runs the bases worse than former San Francisco Giants first baseman Will Clark.

Whatever the case, the Yankees struck a deal with Carter only hours after it was reported that the Dodgers, Rays, and multiple teams in Japan were interested in potentially signing the 30-year-old free agent.

I get that having Carter could be the only member of the Yankees to hit 35 or more home runs this season. But that would be if he were a full-time player, which he won’t — and looking around at the current makeup of this club, there doesn’t appear to be a place for Carter to lay his hat.

$3M isn’t outlandish for a part-time player that can change the course of a ballgame in the late innings with one swing of the bat, but until someone from within the organization makes it clear as to what Carter’s role will be, you have to wonder who this signing most affects on the field.

Over the past three seasons, only four players in the majors have hit at least 125 home runs and walked 250 times. They are Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Davis, Mike Trout, David Ortiz, Josh Donaldson, Miguel Cabrera, and you guessed it, Carter. So it’s hard to imagine a guy like Carter, even if he is all or nothing offensively, riding the pine every single day.

What It Means for the Others

Matt Holliday: The other “big-time” free agent stick signed for one year is currently slated to be the everyday DH. Sure, he can slide out to left field once in a while, but for a guy who has battled numerous injuries over the past few seasons, this possibility is less than ideal.

Brett Gardner: If the trade chatter regarding Gardy had begun to die down before the Carter signing, then it’s about to hit a fever pitch very soon. If the Yankees are serious about getting both Holliday and Carter in the same lineup at the same time and not neglecting defense altogether, then Carter DH’s and Holliday meanders around left field. Again, it’s not ideal because Gardner is a Gold Glove winner and Holliday is not, but Gardner and his waning trade value should have been dealt months ago, So maybe this is exactly the offensive reinforcement Brian Cashman needed to sign off on a potential deal.

Again, it’s not ideal because Gardner is a Gold Glove winner and Holliday is not, but Gardner and his waning trade value should have been dealt months ago, so maybe this is exactly the offensive reinforcement Brian Cashman needed before signing off on a potential deal for the 33-year-old Gardner.

Greg Bird: If the Yankees are going to begin platooning 2015 golden boy, Greg Bird to play only against right-handed pitching, then how in the world is he ever supposed to develop into the first baseman of the future? The organization needs to be patient with Bird and let him work out the kinks (if there are any). Bird’s defense is still a work in progress, but Carter makes him look like Mark Teixeira, Part Deux.

Tyler Austin: Remember him? He’s one of last season’s Baby Bombers. In a matter of just a few hours, Austin very well could have gone from competing for the starting first base job to finding himself back in Triple-A Scranton. The biggest reason for this is because Austin still has two Minor League options the Yankees can exercise. There were instances in ’16 that the kid showed he belongs in the majors, but if he is deemed surplus to the club at this time, it might not be the worst thing in the world for him to refine his defensive game at first and in the outfield. Especially if the next two guys struggle with the bat.

Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks: If there wasn’t a ton of pressure on the two Aaron’s to produce in Spring Training, then there certainly is now (sound familiar?). I’m not so sure the Yankees can play Judge and Carter at the same time considering 0-8 with 8 strikeouts is a real possibility for the duo on any given night. On the upside of things, Judge has a very good arm and has shown solid ability handling the tricky right field corner of Yankee Stadium.

As for Hicks, who most pundits have penciled in as the fourth outfielder, in the event Holliday begin splitting time with Gardner in left (albeit this is before Gardner or Ellsbury hit the DL with their usual list ailments), then Hicks could be in a world of trouble even staying on the 25-man roster. The thing Hicks has going for him is his pristine defense, something only Gardner compares to.

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At the end of the day, Carter straight up mashes left-handed pitching. He did so to the tune of a .875 OPS in 2016. So he’s going to find his way into the lineup when the Yankees face tough southpaws. Unless a number of Baby Bombers light up Spring Training or the Yankees trade Carter at some point in the upcoming season for another prospect, playing time could be scarce for a notable few.

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