Texas Rangers trade rumors: Chris Carter, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman, has been designated for assignment in the aftermath of the Brewers signing Eric Thames out of Korea to man first. The move raised eyebrows, as Carter led the National League in home runs last season and is not a free agent until after 2017, leading Mike Petriello to identify the Texas Rangers as one of the teams that might want to trade for Carter.
Texas, of course, has lost DH Carlos Beltran, 1B Mitch Moreland, and outfielders Ian Desmond and Carlos Gomez to free agency. Shin-Soo Choo and Nomar Mazara are here, and the team has Delino DeShields, Ryan Rua and Joey Gallo as options, but realistically, they need to add a COF/1B/DH type.
Which leads us to Carter, who is a COF/1B/DH type, though probably best suited for a DH role. MLB Trade Rumors projected Carter to get $8.1 million in arbitration for the 2017 season, and at first glance, a guy with 41 home runs in 2016 and a 821 OPS seems worth $8 million.
However, there are concerns there. Carter also struck out 206 times in 2016, leading the National League, and led the majors in strikeouts in 2013. All the swings and misses lead to a lower batting average — Carter hit just .222 last season, and has a career .218 batting average -- and even when walking a fair amount, its hard to have a quality OBP when you are hitting around the Mendoza line. Carter put up a .321 OBP in 2016, and has a career .314 OBP. Given his lack of defensive ability — he’s generally considered a bad defender at first base or in the outfield -- it means he gives you nothing but power.
bWAR and fWAR had similar evaluations of Carter last year, putting him at 0.9 WAR, which means he was a below-average regular. Carter turns 30 in December, so its not as if it should be expected that there’s a lot of untapped potential there — he is what he is, which is a righthanded hitter who will hit a bunch of home runs, strike out a ton, get on base at just a hair above a 30% clip, and give you no value in the field.
At $8-9 million, Carter would be paid like a role player, which is what his historical performance has been like. He’s not a bargain in arbitration, but he’s not likely to get significantly overpaid, either. If you’re a team looking for righthanded power in the DH or 1B spots, and can live with the Ks, he’s a serviceable option at that price on a one year commitment, but nothing more.
The Brewers will now shop Carter around, seeing if they can find a taker for him, and I will be interested to see if they can work a deal. Texas has had interest in Carter in the past — they supposedly were going to trade Akinori Otsuka to the ChiSox for Carter in 2007, before an injury to Otsuka put him on the shelf for the season -- and the Brewers are presumably quite familiar with the Rangers’ system as a result of scouting them this summer as part of the trade discussions that led to Jonathan Lucroy becoming a Ranger.
The Rangers interest is going to depend, in part, on the role they envision for Shin-Soo Choo, and their view of Carter’s defense at first base. Choo is under contract for 4 more years at $82 million, and while he’s a catalyst at the top of the lineup when he’s healthy, staying healthy has been a challenge for him, and he’s not good defensively in right field. Texas may feel like Choo needs to be made an everyday DH at this point in his career, in which case they wouldn’t need a DH, and would have to feel that Carter’s defense at first base isn’t so bad that it outweighs the bat.
So this is something to keep an eye on in the coming week. I expect Texas to at least inquire, and I’d be okay with acquiring Carter if Texas isn’t giving up more than a fringe prospect as part of the deal. We shall see how this plays out...