Much has already been made about the surprising development to non-tender outfielder Chris Carter last night. I must admit that even I initially struggled to find a good reason for the move.
However, after a few hours of some casual research and a good night of rest to think it over, I believe I see the wisdom in it.
First let’s get a little background.
As everyone on MMO already knows, Chris Carter came to the Mets as part of the trade that sent Billy Wagner to the Red Sox in August of 2009.
Wagner gave the Red Sox six solid weeks in which he made 15 appearances and posted a 1.098 WHIP, a 1.98 ERA, and an off the charts K/9 of 14.5. Those were the kind of numbers that Wagner used to produce regularly when he was in his prime. More importantly, he helped the Red Sox win the Wild Card and advance to the post season.
Because Wagner was a Type A free agent, he also gave the Red Sox two top draft choices including the 20th overall pick which they used to select Ball State standout Kolbrin Vitek. The highly regarded second baseman projects as a power hitter with a quick bat and he received a glowing endorsement from Peter Gammons who said “he has perfect fundamentals and a great natural swing.”
The other player the Red Sox selected with the 39th overall pick, was top-ranked pitcher Anthony Ranaudo whose stock dropped after he switched agents to Scott Boras before the draft. Ranaudo, who is 6’7”, was considered to be one of the best college pitchers in the draft. Ranaudo, received the the seventh highest contract in his draft class and was ultimately paid like the top five pick he was originally projected to be.
Don’t slit your wrists yet Mets fans…
In 2010, Billy Wagner signed a one-year deal to close for the Atlanta Braves. He was nothing short of phenomenal for them finishing the season with a 7-2 record, 37 saves, and a 1.43 ERA; the best ERA in his entire career. His 0.865 WHIP was among the top five for all MLB closers and he struck out batters at a rate of 13.5 per nine innings. Tremendous. The Braves are now desperately trying to talk him out of retirement.
The Mets of course, missed out on all of that, but they did get to save six weeks of salary that they didn’t have to pay Billy Wagner for the rest of 2009. The sad part of that, of course, was that they didn’t use it in 2010, in fact they slashed payroll by over $20 million dollars instead.
Then there’s Chris Carter. The poor guy, with all that pressure on him and stares from every Mets fan in the fan base.
What we immediately learned about Chris Carter, is that he couldn’t field if his life depended on it. Not only did he have no range, but his clumsy footwork and lack of glove-work were down right scary to watch. (Did I just say down right?) Oh and his arm… well it ranked right up there with Baba-Booey.
Offensively, Carter was absolutely and remarkably… mediocre.
He batted .263 with a .306 OBP in 100 games, although he had a bunch of clutch appearances as a pinch hitter, so I’ll give him that. He also had a great work ethic and was one of the more competitive personalities on the team. That’s Chris Carter. That’s the Animal.
The reason, as it turns out, for non-tendering him is purely a financial one as the Mets didn’t want to fork over what amounts to about $400K for what is essentially a pinch hitter only in the National League.
They can bring him back if they want to, but I doubt they will because he just doesn’t seem to fit the blueprint of what the Mets need right now, and if speed and defense is the new hallmark of these new Mets, Carter has no place on this team.
The real reason why we should all be angry, is not that the Mets chose to non-tender Carter last night, but because he was our compensation for Billy Wagner.
For that, don’t blame Sandy Alderson and don’t blame Chris Carter, they are just victims of circumstances.
Instead, direct some of your frustration at Omar Minaya for choosing Carter as the payback for Wagner in the first place, but point most of the blame at the person who warrants most of our anger, Jeff Wilpon. It was he who forced Minaya to slash payroll as much as he could as 2009 winded down to a sad and brutal end.
It’s kind of hard to get the pick of the litter, when your own COO takes away most of your leverage when making a deal.
The best resolution to all of this is the hope that Chris Carter latches on with an American League team that could use him as a DH, which is all he really is. And for the Mets to fill his spot on the 25 man roster with a fourth outfielder who is defensive minded, has good speed, and can give the Mets some pop off the bench. We need that, more than we need Chris Carter right now.