If the recent trade rumors are accurate, then it appears that Chris Carter’s time as a Houston Astros is coming to an end.
‘Tis the season of trade rumors, ludicrous or not. But let’s file this rumor under the not-so-crazy: the Houston Astros shopping Chris Carter before today’s non-tender deadline. This very rumor may have sealed Carter’s fate as an Astro.
And let’s face the facts, “Trogdor’s” fate was probably decided after his prolonged slump during the 2015 season. He struggled mightily throughout last season, slashing just .199/.397/.427 with 24 HR and 64 RBI. That translated into a lackluster .319 wOBA and 101 wRC+. Even after finishing the months of September and October strong, the combination of overall poor performance and a possible raise of his 2015 salary of $4.2 million will likely lead to Carter’s end as an Astro. This is actually quite a sad development considering the impressive 2014 season that “Trogdor” put together when he slugged 37 HR and 88 RBI with a 122 wRC+.
There is also the issue of playing time that could only become more problematic in 2016. Top prospect A.J. Reed is figured to be the heir apparent at first base once he is deemed ready. Evan Gattis, who the Astros traded three prospects for last offseason, is in a similar dilemma regarding struggles throughout 2015. But he will still be cheaper than Carter next season in terms of salary, and I bet the Astros aren’t willing to give up on Gattis so quickly after acquiring him. Then there is the possibility of cheaper options at first base such as Jon Singleton, Preston Tucker, or Tyler White. The same can’t be said for Carter, hence why the Astros are placing him on the trade block.
As of now, the overriding feeling is that the Astros franchise is ready to move on from one of the longest-tenured players on the roster.
However, will the Astros front office be able to trade Carter before today’s deadline at 11:59 pm?
Now, that is the multi-million dollar question.
The situation depends on if an interested organization is doubtful that the Astros would actually non-tender the soon-to-be 29-year old slugger, or not confident they could sign Carter off the free agent market. And since they’re supposedly focusing only American League clubs, which essentially lowers the market from 29 to just 14 teams, the Astros may have trouble finding a suitable trade partner. Carter’s limited defensive ability also lowers his value and basically limits him to a team that can utilize a designated hitter.
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These limitations will probably hamper the Astros efforts on the trade market if they have certain value placed on the first baseman/designated hitter. General manager Jeff Luhnow and his team may, at best, only receive a lower-level prospect in return from any trade that could take place. That could all change if the team packages Carter with say, Jake Marisnick, in trade talks to sweeten the deal with more talent returning to Houston as a result.
But say if a trade doesn’t take place, what will the Astros do?
Well, the team may have no choice but to non-tender Carter. Like I stated above, the fact that Carter struggled and will still earn a raise through arbitration likely doesn’t thrill the Astros front office. And if the rumor is already out there that they are willing to part ways with the slugger through trade, the team may decide that this could be best the course of action for the organization and Carter himself by pursuing the non-tender route. This would allow the Astros the remaining portion of the offseason to allocate the additional resources saved in future player acquisitions and give Carter the opportunity to latch on with another club of his choosing.
Overall, the possibility of Carter returning to the Astros in 2016 seems rather doubtful. And even though the team had high hopes for him in 2015, the time may be upon them to move on. The recent rumors only add fuel to the fire that he will not be back. And this is why Carter’s fate seems to be sealed and his days as an Astro numbered.
**Statistics are provided by Fangraphs.com**