Coming into the 2015 season, one of my favorite players on the Houston Astros was Chris Carter after his breakout season in 2014. My thought was that he discovered something in the middle of the 2014 season that led to his second-half resurgence. I even made my wife wait in an hour line during the past offseason to get his autograph at Whataburger. With his low effort power, the power potential with this guy is one of the best in the game. But, like Superman, Carter has his own Kryptonite in the form of a breaking ball. Pitchers have been spinning up off speed and breaking balls to try to get Carter to get himself out all season.
According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Astros are attempting to trade Carter this offseason. Below is his quote from a recent article.
"“While Carter had a good second half, the Astros, according to one major league source, could dangle him as trade bait. Carter’s unpredictable performance, coupled with high strikeouts, could have the Astros seeking a steadier performer at the position. He’s righthanded power, which is sought-after.” – Cafardo."
The question is, what teams looking for right-handed power would offer for Carter? If the Astros called the Reds inquiring about Aroldis Chapman, I don’t think they will be asking for Carter in return. Astros fans have to temper their expectations on what Carter would reel in return. Especially since half of Astros fans said at some point during the 2015 season that the Astros should have just released Carter. Carter rode the pine for an extended stretch getting pinch hit at-bats and losing playing time to Marwin Gonzalez and Luis Valbuena.
Aren’t we glad that Jeff Luhnow held his faith in Carter as he and Colby Rasmus helped carry some of the offensive load down the stretch and into the playoffs. In six playoff games, Carter had a slash line of .294/ .400/ .529/ .929 with a homer and three runs batted in. Let’s take a look at how Carter’s 2015 season fared month to month via Baseball-Reference.
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Looking at his stats per month, Carter struggled during April/March, July, and August. Despite only playing 17 games in September and October, he played like an All-Star player based on his slash line. That’s the appealing part of Carter, when he gets hot, he can carry a team for a month. That is why Luhnow and A.J. Hinch were so patient with Carter. Some critics might say that the Astros were too patient with Carter, and the should have brought up Tyler White or A.J. Reed. Comparing the 2015 and 2014 stats, it’s surprising to see that despite the dip in batting average, Carter’s on-base percentage were almost identical both seasons.
Why would someone trade for Carter? The same reason the Astros traded for Evan Gattis, that type of right-handed power is not easy to find. The Astros are looking to upgrade at the first base position, so if Carter is traded, what are the external and internal options for first base. If Carter is traded, I see Jon Singleton getting an extended look at first base. Should he struggle, the Astros could go back to Valbuena or call-up Reed and/or White in June. The future belongs to Reed, but they will want to see what they have in Singleton and White.
The outside options at first base are led by Chris Davis, whose makeup is very similar to what the Astros lineup mostly consists of, high power and strikeouts. With Davis likely the top target of many other teams, the Astros might need to look at a trade or from the farm.
Call to the Pen
What to expect in return in a trade for Carter? Depends on the market for a first baseman, but several teams in need of a first base/designated hitter will trade for a guy like Carter. The range could be similar to the Dexter Fowler to the Cubs (Dan Straily and Valbuena) and the Carlos Lee to the Marlins (Matt Dominguez). The most likely outcome is trading for a prospect, but the Astros want to add to the big league team as well. It will be very interesting to see how they handle the Carter situation, it could determine that success of the 2016 Houston Astros.