Back in February the Astros sent shortstop Jed Lowrie to the Oakland Athletics in a trade that included a total of five players. The key player in that deal, for the Astros, was Chris Carter.
The 6′ 4 “, 245 pound Carter had put together some impressive power numbers in the minors before making his major league debut in August of 2010, as a 23-year old. Success didn’t come quite as easy for Carter in the big leagues and Chris was still looking for his first hit 32 at-bats later. Carter would have another cup of coffee in Oakland in 2011 — with similar (poor) results. But in 2012 Carter showed signs of life, raking 16 homers in only 260 plate appearances. Although he batted only .239, Carter posted an OPS of .864.
The Athletics also had another power hitting first-basemen on their roster — Brandon Moss. That made Carter, who was out of minor league options, expendable. In need of a shortstop, Billy Beane found the Astros to be a perfect trade partner.
Lowrie turned in an excellent season for the Athletics and Carter led the Astros in homers (29) and RBIs (82). The Astros also picked up Brad Peacock and Max Stassi in the deal whereas the A’s obtained a reliever that would ultimately miss the season due to an elbow injury. Not a bad deal for Jeff Luhnow.
Carter took some heat, and deservedly so, for leading the league with 212 strikeouts. But his overall numbers were actually pretty good. In fact, I think Carter compares favorably with some of the power hitters that Astros fans are anxious to trade for — namely Mark Trumbo.
In his first full season in the big leagues, Carter’s numbers stack up pretty evenly with those of Trumbo. Sure, the Angels first-baseman hit five more homers than Carter and drove in 18 more runs. But he needed almost 100 more plate appearances to do it. When you look at the percentage based numbers, Carter actually comes out on top.[table “11” not found /]
Trumbo has a slight edge in batting average but Carter actually drew 16 more walks, giving him a better on-base percentage. Slugging is a wash and, although Trumbo had a higher WAR, Carter produced a better wRC+.
Trumbo showed some regression from 2012 and some people may be measuring him judged solely on that All-Star season. I just don’t think we have enough data to say that Trumbo is destined to continue improving. In fact, the data that we have suggests otherwise.
Furthermore, the Astros don’t need another Chris Carter in the lineup. Sure, the run production is nice, but this team doesn’t have room for another player who is basically a defensive liability with an enormous k-rate. I’ll take my chances on Carter continuing to show improvement but the Angels can have Trumbo.
Carter turns 27 in December (he’s a year younger than Trumbo) and should be the Astros primary DH in 2014. He can play a few games at 1B to give the regular starter (whoever that may be) an occasional rest but I would rather not see Chris in the outfield.
Carter’s power is undeniable. Chris can hit a ball 430 feet with a swing that looks like he is swatting away a mosquito. His swing looks so effortless that it can easily be mistaken for an actual lack of effort. Carter definitely displays an easy-going persona and he isn’t the type of player that is going to be a vocal leader. But I think Chris has a place on this team. He just needs some more protection in the lineup in order to reach his full potential.