Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Contemplating Chris Carter

The Twins on Tueday filled the open spot on the 25-man roster created by DFAing Phil Hughes with Ryan LaMarre, who figures to wind up with an impressive amount of frequent flier miles bouncing between Rochester and Minneapolis.

They also purchased slugger Chris Carter from the Angels. Meaningful or meaningless? Let's examine:

Who is he? The ultimate one-trick pony. Carter has big-time power -- he led the National League in homers in 2016 -- and does little else. He's 31 now, and to the extent that he plays a position it's first base. He's listed at 245 pounds, but I won't vouch for the accuracy of that weight.

Carter has seen big league time in Oakland, Houston, Milwaukee and the Yankees, hitting 158 homers in his wandering but also hitting just .217 and leading his league twice in strikeouts. Milwaukee nontendered him after he hit 41 homers in 2016 rather than deal with his arbitration eligibility.

Carter has spent this season in Salt Lake City, the Angels' Triple A affiliate, which is a very good hitting environment. He's slugging .600 there. He's also hitting just .255. He remains an all-or-nothing hitter.

Why the Twins? Start with the uncertainty about Joe Mauer's health. If the concussion symptoms that landed him on the disabled list persist -- and given his history, that seems a legitimate possibility -- the Twins may need some help at first base behind Logan Morrison.

Kennys Vargas is still in the organization, but Vargas is really scuffling at Triple A, where his slugging percentage is literally half Carter's (albeit in a much more difficult hitting environment).

And, again, Carter is right-handed. Even with Mauer and Jason Castro sidelined, this remains a very left-handed lineup, which suggests vulnerability to southpaws.

Any drawbacks to adding him? Probably not. I had hoped that Brent Rooker would continue to push his way rapidly up the ladder; he opened the season at Double A Chattanooga. But Rooker is hitting just.236/.273/.379 with the Lookouts, and while I remain optimistic that he's going to be a major league first baseman someday, that day is unlikely to come in 2018. I wouldn't want Carter (or Vargas) blocking Rooker, but Rooker is stalling himself right now.

Bottom line: Carter is very flawed, but a reasonable addition at the price. Given Mauer's cloudy outlook, Miguel Sano's recurring leg issues and Morrison's spotty record against left-handed pitching, Carter might wind up being a useful piece. Or he might be irrelevant. The latter is preferable.

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