The Astros’ Chris Carter Conundrum


The Houston Astros have a bit of a problem. They’re first in their division. They have one of the best records in baseball. And they are getting next to nothing in terms of production from first baseman/designated hitter, Chris Carter.

Chris Carter is off to another dreadfully slow start to 2015. Over the course of the first five weeks of the season, Carter has yet to hit over .200 once. Among his fellow Astros starters, CC ranks last in hits, doubles, batting average, and slugging, and next to last in on-base percentage. He ranks first in strikeouts, fourth in home runs, and is tied for fourth in RBI. His stats to date: .151/.256/.302, with 16 hits, 5 home runs, 1 double and 12 runs batted in.

Some folks say this is typical of “Trogdor.” In 2014, he did not maintain a .200 average until July 11. And after he found his swing, he was one of the reasons the Astros went 26-26 in August and September to help ensure the ball club wouldn’t lose 100 games again.

But this year is different. The Astros are competitive and are shooting for a playoff berth. No longer is getting over .500 the only acceptable goal. And herein lies the problem: Carter is stinking it up while his team is winning (yes, he hit a big 2-run blast on Saturday night, but they’ve been few and far between). This means the front office can afford to wait on him to turn it around. But should they?

How could the Astros address this? 

Judging by social media posts, article comment sections, and a recent article from Fansided’s Call to the Pen, it’s clear that many fans are frustrated with Carter and they are clamoring for the Astros to trade him. However, at this point Chris Carter’s value is limited. He’s a designated hitter playing at first base which means his value is highest in the American League. Not to mention that he’s ice cold. And he comes to life in the second half of the season. The time for shipping him out is over, the man is out of options, and he’s making $4.175 million this season.

If Jeff Luhnow had the opportunity to get something significant in return for Trogdor, it would have been after the end of the 2014 season, when the big guy was coming off a monster second half. So what are the Astros’ options?

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First, they could set him on the bench to mull things over. This worked last year when then manager Bo Porter benched CC for four games in five nights, including three consecutive games at the end of May. Carter knew he had to work on things and find his swing again. After riding the pine, Carter hit two homers in his first game back on May 28, and went on to bat .242/.321/.536 with 31 home runs and 71 RBI for the remainder of the season.

If the team went that route, they currently have Preston Tucker on the roster as a call-up for George Springer; Tucker has played 24 games at the minor league level at the first sack. However, A.J. Hinch has put that idea on ice for now. There is also Marwin Gonzalez, though with the Jed Lowrie injury, MarGo probably wouldn’t see a ton of time at first. Then there’s Jon Singleton, who was off to a hot start at AAA Fresno, but has cooled off dramatically. He’s currently batting .238 with 25 hits, 7 home runs, and 17 RBI in 29 games; Singleton is not an option.

Second, the Astros could try to put a package together for a more consistent slugger, but at what cost? They already did a big trade to bring in Evan Gattis, and there are other holes to fill, like in the starting rotation, that are more of an issue at this point.

Third, there is the Carlos Correa option, which is a very long shot right now. Due to his dominance in at the AA-level this season, lots of rumors are swirling about when Correa will arrive in Houston. Rumors aside, Luhnow said the young shortstop will likely be called up to AAA Fresno this month as part of his progression. But IF they brought him up to the Majors, they could slide Gonzalez over to first and deal with the other roster issues as they arise.

And that’s really about it as far as options go for the team. They could cut Carter from the roster, but with that contract it is very unlikely.

Thus, the Astros have a Chris Carter conundrum with no immediate solution in sight. Thankfully the team has a winning record right now. Keep your fingers crossed in the hope that he turns his season around sooner rather than later. If patience is a virtue, we’ll all be better people once this works out.

Next: CTH's Interview with Carlos Correa

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