There have always been debates in the construction of offseason rosters and for the Brewers, decisions have to be made at first base yet again. This one will fluctuate around Chris Carter, whom Milwaukee will have to decide whether or not to tender a contract in the coming months.
First, let’s take a glimpse at the positional starts at first base, even though we all already know that Carter dominated the stat sheet in that category:
Chris Carter (155)
Jonathan Lucroy (6)
Hernan Perez (6)
Andy Wilkins (3)
Ramon Flores (2)
After wrapping up this past season of play, Carter has now obtained 4.159 years of service time within Major League Baseball. Sites such as MLBTR and FanGraphs have him slated to generate a return of approximately $8.1 million in arbitration, a price tag that could cause some disagreements among the spectrum of Brewers fans.
Let’s begin with the elephant in the room regarding Carter’s play. It’s crystal-clear that he’s a one-way style of player. Offense is his primary characteristic, there’s no way around it. Everyone knows that. The question that looms is whether or not that makes it worthy for the Brewers to tender him a contract. Looking back at past arbitration deals, MLBTR’s arbitration model has defined that the type of players that have most benefited from tendering deals have been based upon five offensive categories: batting average, home runs, RBI’s, stolen bases and plate appearances. Here are Chris Carter’s stats from 2016 in those areas:
The Brewers received a heavy contribution from Carter in three out of those five categories. It’s not as if Milwaukee brought him in expecting All-Star level stats in batting average and stolen bases. Everyone knows that Chris Carter hits for power, not contact. That approach to his game goes back to his days in Houston. However, this is where it becomes interesting in regards to the contract situation. Despite Carter being a vital piece to the Astros offense (smacking 90 HR and 264 RBI in three years), they elected to non-tender him, believing his impact wasn’t worth the predicted $5.6 million in the arbitration process. Instead, Milwaukee nabbed him for less than half of that with a one-year, $2.5 million deal.
Now, David Stearns & Co. will face a similar situation that his old friends in Houston did. Should they non-tender him or is he worth the money? It’s a sticky situation that could have a large impact moving forward. Obviously, the downfall to Carter’s game is his inability to hit for average. However, the argument could be made that that’s something the Brewers were already aware of when they brought him in last season. That might be enough to scare other teams away if they were facing the situation Milwaukee is, but it could be foreseen that the Crew views it differently. Instead, they could value Carter’s raw power and realize that he could potentially serve as an intriguing piece of their future. Whether that be as their first baseman moving forward or as a poker chip in a trade deal remains to be unknown. However, for a team like the Brewers that can lack that power in their lineup at times, the possibility of a player with 50 home run potential might be too much to pass up, especially in hitter friendly Miller Park.
MLBTR also notes deals that were signed by players that boast similar characteristics to Carter. Former NL Central resider Pedro Alvarez received a $5.8 million deal with the Orioles last season. His stat line this year generated that value to approximately $9 million. Baltimore also received the better end of the deal with the MLB leader in home runs, Mark Trumbo. The Orioles signed Trumbo for $9.2 million but his impressive offensive showing produced $17.3 million in value.
Another way to gauge the situation is to take a look at the Brewers’ farm system. They currently don’t have a prospect that is a proven corner infielder stud, much less a sure fire first base candidate. There have been talks about converting one of their prospects to first base (Jake Gatewood, Jacob Nottingham, Lucas Erceg) but that’s much easier said than done and could scratch off some value to their game. So to say that Chris Carter would be blocking anyone from receiving developmental time at first base would be inaccurate.
Could the Brewers not sign Carter and instead roll the dice with one of the players from the active roster? On paper, yes, it’s always an option, but that doesn’t mean it’s a smart option. Hernan Perez could play first, but more as the utility man that fits his role, not as an everyday starter. Domingo Santana will most likely stay put in the outfield. And for the fans clamoring for Braun to be designated as the first baseman, the chances of that occurring are quite unlikely to propagate.
In the end, it all comes down to whether or not the Brewers believe Carter’s offensive firepower is worth it. Taking his bat out of the lineup would eliminate the protection that Ryan Braun currently receives, thus making it much easier for opposing pitchers to go right at him. That could be a way in which Milwaukee perceives the situation. Also, the Brewers aren’t exactly extremely tight on money. Remember, Ryan Braun and Matt Garza are the only two players with guaranteed contracts. If Carter does in fact generate powerful numbers in the home run category again this season, the Brewers might have more of an argument to use with teams if discussions for a trade were to come up, citing consistency with power.
With that being said, what do you think the Brewers should do with Carter? Let us know in the comments below!