BtBS is profiling several prominent players who became free agents after their team didn't tender them a contract. For a full list, click here.
Acquiring Chris Carter was one of the many thefts Brewers GM David Stearns carried out against the Astros, his former employer, over the past year. After Houston opted to non-tender him a contract, Stearns scooped him up on a one-year, $2.5 million "prove it" deal, and prove things he did, leading the National League in home runs. For a team with no real designs on competing in 2017, a relatively cheap source of crowd-pleasing homers at a position without a clear heir apparent in the minor leagues seemed like a no-brainer.
Alas, it was us, the unwashed masses, who were the ones without brains. Milwaukee decided to get cheap and cut Carter loose last week, opting to dream of imported Korean dingers from a returning ex-pat over sticking with the good, old-fashioned American dingers Carter was already providing them. Carter is now a free agent after the Brewers were shockingly unable to trade a player who was about to become extremely available in a couple of hours before last Friday's tender deadline.
Is Chris Carter good?
It depends on what sort of activities you feel like a baseball player, and specifically a first baseman, should be getting up to. If you're a DREAMer (Dingers Rule Everything Around Me), then Carter is obviously your dude; he hit more home runs (41) than all the other professional baseball players in the National League except forNolan Arenado, who tied him. There are a lot of baseball players in the National League, and several of them are really good!
Carter is also your dude if you think it's a great idea for first basemen to just be going around striking out all the time. That'd be a weird skill to value, but look, it's your baseball team and you have to run it however you want to. Striking out a lot could be the new market inefficiency. Carter struck out 206 times in 2016 to easily lead the National League. His career 33.1 percent strikeout rate leads all active players and is the fifth-highest of all time (non-pitchers, min. 1000 PA). He's really quite good at striking out — the dingers come at a price.
Despite a low batting average that necessarily results from poor contact skills, Carter does still manage to reach base at an acceptable clip thanks to a healthy amount of walks. Carter ranked 20th in the league with an 11.8 percent free pass rate in 2016, which kept his on-base percentage 100 points higher than his ugly .222 batting average. Fans of the three true outcomes have to adore this guy: His at-bats have ended without the need for fielders 50.3% of the time. All the position players on the other team could meet up in center field to play Settlers of Catan during his at bats and there is a better-than-not chance that it wouldn't matter.
Defensively, well, I'm sure Carter wishes there were times when he could go play board games with his friends in center field instead of doing things he's not particularly good at, such as catching and throwing. Defensive metrics are new and growing and generally disagree with each other a lot, but the arguments over Carter tend to focus not on whether or not he's any good, but rather the extent to which he is bad.
Where does he fit?
I mean, Coors would be fun.
That was the game-winning home run Carter hit in what turned out to be his penultimate game as a Brewer, and the one that tied him with Arenado atop the NL leaderboard. When a normal human being offers a swing at a ball like that, it lands safely where it belongs: in the dang shortstop's glove. When Carter swings like that in Coors, it ends up in the 17th row, disturbing the nap of an innocent man with a very intricately-patterned blanket.
"Um, yes, security? A large man is obviously cheating at sports and it's ruining my beauty sleep."
If we're not going to do that, though, then let's go ahead and find Carter a nice American League team, where he can just hit and hit all day and not worry about having to go and play defense. The Orioles already have a guy named Chris who is a deacon in the Church of the Three True Outcomes, so why not two? They need to replace Mark Trumbo anyway.
What will he cost?
Prior to being non-tendered, Carter was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $8.1 million in salary arbitration in 2017, so that's a good starting place. A good comparison might be Pedro Alvarez, who was projected for the same amount by MLBTR last season before being non-tendered by Pittsburgh. Alvarez just so happened to wind up with the same team I'm shipping Carter to last season, so everything really lines up quite nicely. Alvarez wound up signing a one-year, $5.8 million contract a week into spring training. This year's free agent crop is weak, however, and scarcity makes this a seller's market.
Prediction: Orioles, one year, $7 million
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Travis Sarandos is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score, a Taylor Swift enthusiast and a very nice person. You can follow him on Twitter at @travis_mke.