Chris Carter led the NL with 41 home runs last year, so he clearly has something to offer a team.
And so the Yankees were right to take advantage of a curiously quiet market -- one that had Carter considering a move to Japan -- and lock up the 30-year-old slugger for a paltry $3.5 million.
But with the signing, they introduced a problem that impacts Fantasy Baseball owners as much as anyone: too many cooks in the kitchen.
The Yankees weren't often linked to Carter this offseason because they didn't have a clear opening. And they still don't. They're getting Greg Bird, their late-season revelation from 2015, back from a torn labrum to man first base. They introduced Aaron Judge as their everyday right fielder late last year. They paid Matt Holliday $13, or four times as much as Carter, to man DH.
So who wins in this scenario?
No one, except in the strictest sense of Carter going from not having a job to having one. But come on. Did any of us really expect the reigning home run champ to go to Japan?
And who loses?
Everyone. All four. Nothing is promised. Everything is up in the air. Except for those stretches when Holliday is injured, all of them will need at-bats, but only three of them can get them at any one time, which means all four will get fewer in 2017 than any of us were anticipating just yesterday.
Maybe it's one of those Ian Malcolm life-finds-a-way sort of deals where any of these four scenarios comes to pass:
- Carter replaces Tyler Austin as Bird's platoon partner, which would be the most straightforward outcome. Bird, a left-handed batter, would start against righties, and Carter, in spite of his even splits, would start against lefties. Being a more proven alternative, Carter would provide the Yankees a better safety net for the unproven Bird, but he'd also give Bird, heretofore a sleeper, less chance of securing the job outright.
- Judge gets sent down for more seasoning, which obviously isn't Option A but may ultimately prove necessary. He struck out in half of his at-bats during a 27-game stint last year, after all, and, at 6-feet-7, is predisposed to having holes in his swing. It would be a difficult concession for the Yankees, seeing as Judge is about to turn 25, but if he's hitting .150 on May 1, Holliday may become the full-time right fielder and Carter the full-time DH.
- Holliday has all the health problems you'd expect for a 37-year-old, particularly one who has averaged just 91.5 games over the last two seasons. I've alluded to this one already, and it may be the most probable outcome. Holliday is brittle and showing clear signs of decline. I can't help but wonder now if the Yankees regret that signing, seeing as the market never materialized for DH types.
- Carter slumps his way out of the equation. There's a reason so many teams passed on him, after all, and it's because of all the misery that comes with the power. There were lengthy stretches in both 2014 and 2016 when he was positively useless at the plate, but since neither the Astros (in 2014) nor the Brewers (in 2016) were competing at the time, they were willing to ride it out. That changed for the Astros in 2015, which is why Carter was unable to salvage a .199 batting average that wasn't at all an oddity for him. It's just that his season was reduced to only 391 at-bats. So with a part-time role, will he get hot enough early enough to justify his job? It's a reasonable question.
I'd be willing to bet one of those scenarios plays out and three of these hitters end up playing close to every day, but picking which one is a fool's errand. And then there's a chance that some combination of those events happens, bringing us back to square one.
I had been willing to draft any of those four late in mixed leagues -- and might have even called Bird, Judge and even Carter sleepers -- but now that I can't trust any of them to get even 400 at-bats, I'm thinking we should leave them, all four of them, for AL-only formats.