Every now and again we like to have some fun here at Climbing Tal’s Hill, and this will be one of those times. The Houston Astros should provide plenty to cheer about in 2015, due to the hard work and vision of GM Jeff Luhnow. Yet, there is one player that could become expendable as the season progresses, so let’s talk about a hypothetical situation.
Chris Carter is the Houston Astros designated hitter, as his bat warrants him being in the lineup every day, while his defense could be considered a liability. As DH, you get Carter’s power numbers with none of the fielding follies. Carter’s second half last season was monstrous, as he hit .252 (.205 in the first half), with 18 home runs, 48 rbi and an on-base percentage of .338 in 39 fewer at-bats than he compiled from April to mid-July. All of these are increases over his pre-all-star numbers, save for the home run total, which he missed equalling by one.
That second half is the last impression the Astros’ slugger made on the baseball world, and is something that many teams would love to add to their roster. But why would the Houston Astros give up a player that hit 37 home runs and drove in 88? There is a scenario where this could be a real possibility, and it is this: if Jon Singleton can lock down first base, Carter could become expendable. Singleton has made strides in his playing time this spring, batting .296 with a .367 OBP in 30 at-bats thus far. While this is a small sample size, the quality of pitcher that Singleton has faced is a 9.1 according to Baseball-Reference, which is right between Triple-A (8) and MLB level (10) talent.
With Carter shipped off, the Houston Astros would have first base covered with Singleton, Evan Gattis could take over regular DH duties, and Jake Marisnick, a solid defender at the very least, would be able to patrol the outfield. While this is all possible with Chris Carter in the fold, playing time would be a major issue, and with this roster full of versatile players, Carter’s long-ball talent may not be enough to warrant a roster spot with this new group of players.
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The slugger has just reached arbitration, and will make $4.175M in 2015. This isn’t a ton to pay for the production he’s provided, but that number figures to rise if he proves to be consistent over the next few seasons.
While trading Carter isn’t a necessity, it does open some doors for the younger talent on the farm to get a look when they’re ready. Domingo Santana comes to mind. If the Astros are going to trade him, the deadline may be a good time to do so. By then, teams (including Houston) will have a good idea of what they’re working with and what they need to improve upon. Undoubtedly, some club will need some added pop. The beauty of last year’s second half is, even if Carter is having a down offensive first half in 2015, Houston could sell last year’s stats. Obviously the better he performs, the higher the price tag will be.
At this point, with opening day still a couple of weeks away, one hole that could be addressed would be either a starting pitcher, or some late-inning relief. While the bullpen has definitely improved, we haven’t seen a ninth inning play out yet, so that fear is still lingering. At starter, there are some solid options in-house, but the rotation is always a place that could be upgraded.
Let’s talk suitors. Since Carter plays most games as a DH, an American League team is more likely to spring for his services. Here is the good news–there are teams that could definitely want Carter, and seem to have a surplus of pitching. The bad news being that most of them reside in the AL West. The Angels and Rangers would be decent landing spots, and the Astros have made trades with each club this offseason, so there is a working relationship there. That said, neither trade involved a player this impactful.
Again, this is all speculation, but there has been some chatter among fans of this being a possibility down the road. The purpose of this piece was to bring forward the argument for why a trade would be done, although I have yet to make up my mind on whether it should be done. Do you have a convincing argument, or a trade possibility? Sound off in the comments below!