When you share a name with perhaps the most powerful man in the minor leagues (Oakland’s Chris Carter), and you have been toiling away for the past three years in one of the deepest organizations in baseball, your can disappear pretty quickly. But Boston’s Chris Carter may be on the way to New York in the Billy Wagner trade, and it’s possible that regular playing time finally awaits Carter on the Mets. Perhaps it is time, then, to talk about the good things that the other Chris Carter brings to the table.
With the caveat that he’s always been a little old at his minor league stations, Carter has consistently put up good numbers at the AAA level. In the Arizona system, he had a nice .301/.395/.483 line in his first attempt at the level in 2006. That production, however, did not land him in the major leagues. He requested a trade and was sent to Washington and then included by the Nationals in the trade that netted Wily Mo Pena.
Thus began his long battle for the final roster spot in Boston, which he finally (temporarily) won this spring. That was, at least, until Mark Kotsay got healthy and provided better defense at more spots on the field. Back went Carter to AAA.
In Boston began also the long, slow decline of his AAA numbers from the .880 OPS peak to this year’s less exciting .779 OPS. Perhaps he lost a little desire after his 400th game at that level, or maybe his platoon split was being taken advantage of. While Carter brought some nice on-base skills to the table against both lefties (.377) and righties (.362) in the minors, his pop disappeared when facing lefties (.405 SLG). He may need a platoon mate – that lower slugging number won’t cut it at first base in the major leagues.
We seem to have forgotten that we were going to highlight the positives in his game. He can obviously get on base (12.7% walk rate in the minor leagues), and his defense at first base is actually good (9.26 RF/G career in the minors). With the aforementioned pop against righties, he can help the power-starved Metropolitans (fewest home runs in the major leagues this year) for sure. The only problem with pairing him with Daniel Murphy at first base in New York next year is that Murphy shares his problem with left-handed pitchers (.725 OPS vs lefties in the minors, .718 vs them in the majors).
But, hey, when you are trying to build depth in a farm system that otherwise boasts the underwhelming Cory Sullivan and Nick Evans as possible outfield and first base depth, you have to take what you can get. Especially when you are offering a reliever coming off of Tommy John surgery that costs $2.5 million per month and can only pitch once every three days in return.