The Ballad of Chris Carter
When word of the Jed Lowrie acquisition reached Twitter, many A’s fans were taken aback by the inclusion of Chris Carter as the centerpiece of the package headed to Houston.
Weeks earlier esteemed A’s beat writer Susan Slusser hinted in the San Francisco Chronicle that the machinations of a proposed Lowrie deal had fizzled due to Oakland’s reluctance to part with Carter. The subsequent signing of Hiroyuki Najakima to plug the hole at shortstop, seemed to signify that any deal involving the former Red Sox was now dead.
Or so everyone thought.
Which brings us back to Vernon Christopher Carter, former platoon first basemen/future designated hitter. Rewinding the clocks back a year ago, and Carter was approaching a pivotal part of a career that had been dimmed by a distinct lack of success in the major leagues. Despite impressive minor league power numbers, he had failed to solidify any type of permanent place in Oakland thanks to two extremely lackluster stints.
In 2010, Carter would start his fledgeling career in ominous fashion by going 0-33 with 13 strikeouts before his first hit. Even more disturbing than his offense, was the A’s misguided attempt to masquerade him as a left fielder. Out of position, and out of luck at the plate it was evident that he was simply overwhelmed at the Major League Level. Completely written across his face was an obvious sign of a severe lack of confidence.
Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
The 2011 season would bring nothing more than a September cameo in Oakland, and a paltry batting line of .136/ .176/ .136 in 44 at bats to go along with it. As the off-season approached Carter was soon becoming an afterthought in Oakland’s plans, and the roster construction began to reflect this reality heading into 2012. Now buried in the depth chart at first base by the likes of Brandon Allen, Daric Barton, and Kila Ka’aihue , the idea of Carter manning first base for the A’s began to look more doubtful at the best.
With Ka’aihue and Allen jettisoned from the organization by mid season, and Barton failing to preform. Carter was given another chance, and joined his former Sacramento cohort Brandon Moss at first base to form another effective pair of Oakland’s plethora of platoons. Jumping off to a hot start, he homered in 3 of his first 4 games played, and won the hearts of the hometown crowd with a massive 3-run walk off blast against Seattle on July 6th in extra innings at the Coliseum.
In his first extended look, Carter responded by finishing with an respectable batting line of .239/.350/.514 and totaling 16 home runs and 39 RBI’s in 260 plate appearances. The propensity to strikeout remained, as he fanned 31% of the time but when he did connect he was finally able to showcase his power while averaging a home run every 13.6 at bats.
Power being a valuable commodity such as it is, I suppose we can’t be surprised Carter was an object of attention this winter. For a team such as the Astros, willing to look past his obvious defensive inadequacies in exchange for an affordable source of offensive production, the deal makes sense. For the A’s who are intently going full bore in attempt to protect their divisional title and continue contending, acquiring a solid “win now” piece such as Lowrie while simultaneously freeing up at bats at Designated Hitter is also coherent.
That doesn’t mean we won’t miss the big guy. Good luck Chris Carter, and remember to smile every now and then.