Chris Carter Signs with Rays

In case you haven’t yet heard, “The Animal” has gone south for the winter (and spring) — Chris Carter has signed a minor-league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, who extended an invitation to spring training.

The 28-year-old Carter was non-tendered by the Mets in November. He hit .263 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 100 games for the Mets in 2010, splitting time between right field and left field and coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter.

He was let go by the Mets because the new regime didn’t see him as a sure thing to make the 25-man roster, and because he spent as much he did on it last year, he would have been guaranteed to make at least $200,000 (60% of last year’s salary) even if he were to spend all of 2011 in AAA.

It was a somewhat surprising move by General Anderson and Co., since we assumed they valued players like Carter — who can hit, hit with power, and show an affinity to get on base. But I guess the move came down to saving a few extra dollars for the cash-strapped Wilpons. Hopefully they can pay the peanut vendors at Citi Field come April.

I’ll miss Carter, but once he was non-tendered, the writing was on the wall: the Mets’ future did not include his bat and hard work ethic. It always stunned me that Jerry Manuel had no problem making left field a platoon of Fernando Tatis / Dan Murphy, but avoided at all costs putting Carter in the lineup more than once a month. It also baffled me that Manuel never let Carter hit against lefthanded pitchers, since he tore them up in AAA. On the one hand I’m disappointed to see him go, but on the other, I’m happy for him and hope he gets a legitimate shot to make the Rays.

Considering his defensive deficiencies, one would think that Carter will be looked at in a DH role. However, the Rays already have lefthanded-hitting Matt Joyce penciled into that role. They also have a lefthanded-hitting first baseman in Dan Johnson. Though, Joyce also plays the outfield, and depending on where Ben Zobrist ends up, Carter does have an outside shot at making Tampa Bay’s big-league club. If nothing else, he’s likely to be the first corner man called up if he starts the year in AAA.

Good luck, Animal.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. TeufelFan January 8, 2011 at 10:26 pm
    .263 BA in 167 AB last year “can hit”
    .126 ISO SLG in 167 AB last year = “hit with power”
    .317 OBP in 180 PA last year = “affinity for getting on base”

    He’s 29, not likely to get better, and doesn’t have a position. Like all Mets fans, I liked Carter, but let’s be realistic, he is not a major leaguer on a real team, just the joke of a team Omar Minaya put together in 2010.

    • EndyRules January 9, 2011 at 12:15 am
      Have never commented before, but needed to acknowledge a fantastic response to this post. Broke down atypically lazy “argument” for the greatness of the Animal succinctly and perfectly.
      • Andy January 9, 2011 at 3:43 am
        Well he may have been better had he been used more, and anyway he was almost as good as Jason Bay for 1/10 of the cost . . .
      • Joe January 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm
        EndyRules, thanks for joining the conversation. Hope to hear from you more often.

        You’ll see my lazy argument below. In some cases you can’t just look at stats, you have to look at the player’s skill set and his past experience. Chris Carter has proven he can mash AAA pitching, and at the MLB level he showed above-average hand-eye coordination, bat speed, and pitch recognition. The discipline and approach he showed in the minors didn’t come out 100% in MLB — he was fairly aggressive, swinging early in counts. That could have been explained by the fact he was pinch-hitting most of the time and/or trying too hard to prove that he could hit. It’s easy to say that hitters should always keep the exact same approach no matter the situation but unfortunately the human element often figures into the equation, no matter how much we’d like to eliminate it.

        I do agree, though, that Carter is a very poor defensive outfielder, mainly because of his arm. But I wouldn’t rate Murphy or Tatis as significantly better.

    • Joe January 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm
      The raw statistics don’t necessarily tell the story of Carter because it is WAY too small a sample size. Not to mention that sample size was as a player constantly coming off the bench, never getting several starts in a row. If you have played baseball at any level — or have participated in any other sport or motor activity — then you know it’s easiest to perform at your full potential when you do something every day, as opposed to once in a while.
  2. Ed January 8, 2011 at 11:16 pm
    I loved Carter as a hitter but with all do respect to the female fans, he threw like a girl. I remember 1 game last year when he played right field and the opposition stretched a single into a double a couple of times. He was horrible.
  3. Walnutz15 January 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm
    Makes sense. Had to figure Carter would do what’s best for his career, and go back to the AL.

    As someone who really wanted to see what we could get out of Carter, I’m of the belief that he can’t hack it as a “regular” on an NL roster.

    Granted, all we saw were mostly pinch-hit AB’s – and sporadic starts in the OF…..but being honest with myself, this is no big loss.

    Especially if we get Murphy back, and someone like Nick Evans develops as a RH bat off the bench, or spot-starting vs. LHP.

    I actually think Lucas Duda has a chance to become a better version of Carter, who I really cringed at watching in the outfield (getting reads, and even moreso when he threw).

    Good for him, in quickly getting another opportunity – and I wish him the best.

    Unfortunately, for the playing career of Mr. Carter as a Met – he never showed enough defensively for me to say I’d ever be comfortable with him out there for more than an inning or two at a time.

    Maybe he can log more time at 1Bag down in Tampa, provided he cracks the roster. If nothing else, he’ll push Dan Johnson to step things up… they both bring a similar skill-set offensively – to the table (both lefties, too).

    Johnson’s 3 years older, and has done it with more consistency at the Minor League-level. Will be interesting to see if Carter sticks anywhere with the Rays.