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Why isn’t anyone signing Chris Carter?

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Everyone is wondering where Mark Trumbo’s going to go, but a smart team would sneak in and grab Chris Carter while we wait.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

My colleague Marc Normandin says a lot of smart things for someone who’s super into professional wrestling. Indeed, the mind spins at what he could accomplished if he wasn’t probably suffering from sleep deprivation as a result of his baby. But this particular smart thing he said today really stuck with me:

Trumbo, yesterday, graciously offered to play baseball for something like $40-50 million over the next three years. And if he can get that? Man, more power to him. But as Normandin points out, I would not pay him that much. I would take half of that money and give it to Chris Carter and be super happy about it.

Trumbo is a perfectly ok baseball player, and led the American League in homers last year with 47. He was worth around two wins. That’s not a lot for a guy who leads his league in homers, and that’s because his power is really his only skill. His outfield defense is bad and he has no patience. His OPS+ was a very good, but not especially special 20% better than the league average, once you account for his ballpark. Good, but more like Melky Cabrera and Carlos Santana than an MVP candidate.

That is not a criticism of Trumbo. You can win with latter day Steve Balbonis on your roster. And the Orioles did, riding their power bats to a wild card. But Chris Carter is also a latter day Steve Balboni. He’s 90 percent of what Trumbo would offer, but at half the price. Observe:

That’s the wOBA for Trumbo and Carter over the last four years. We can do the same thing with wRC+:

The picture we’re painting here is that Carter is almost, if not exactly, the same hitter Trumbo is. He even has the same weaknesses. He strikes out a ton, he’s bad on defense, and he doesn’t hit for average. He does have more patience than Trumbo, but has slightly less power and contact skills. He’s also, somehow, less defensibly able. At best, he’s a bad first baseman. At worst, he’s a good DH.

Look, I know that virtually everyone in baseball is flush with cash right now. I know that $15 million for a two win player isn’t an extravagance today. But if you need a first baseman or a DH and your choice is giving Mark Trumbo $15 million a year for the next three years, or Chris Carter, $6 million a year for the next two? I take Carter in a heartbeat, and spend the savings on one of those middle relievers who costs $9 million a year.