Did Minnesota Just Summon the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?
Image courtesy of Andy Marlin, USA TodayI feel for Carter. Had he come along 10 years earlier, he might've been viewed much differently as an asset.
Not so long ago, the thought of a 29-year-old who led the league in home runs being forced to settle for a one-year, $3.5 million deal (as Carter did with the Yankees last February) would've been inconceivable. Forty-one homers got you paid. Period.
But it is the reality of today's MLB, where strikeout-prone sluggers who lack complementary offensive skills, or any kind of defensive value, are not commodities. Carter was toiling away in Triple-A before Minnesota traded cash considerations to the Angels for him on Wednesday.
After signing (once again, in late February) a minor-league contract with the Halos, he launched 13 homers with a .600 slugging percentage at Salt Lake, but the big-league club had no use for him.
Carter will head to the minors in his new organization, too, but maybe not for long. The Twins evidently see a possible need for him, which might speak to the level of concern around Joe Mauer.
Surely it's coincidence that Carter arrives in Rochester just as Sano (likely) departs to meet the Twins in Seattle. Surely it is. But...
If you could handpick a "Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come" equivalent for Miguel's Ebenezer – in all of baseball – it would be Chris Carter.
That's no disrespect to Carter, whose 158 home runs would tie Brian Dozier for 12th in Twins history. His power is prodigious, and has been since he was a 20-year-old mashing 39 home runs at High-A. But his grievously high strikeout rates have suffocated the impact of his immense pop.
To be fair, Carter's still playing ball, and has a chance to return to the majors soon. He's hardly a worst-case scenario in the grand scheme. But he was also never gifted with the innate talent of Sano, whose shine has greatly diminished since an incandescent debut in 2015.
Even as one who tries to give Sano every benefit of the doubt, I can't ignore the overwhelming evidence of a player who has strayed badly off course. Underwhelming numbers, tons of missed time, off-the-field allegations, and reports from those around him of an inexplicably lackadaisical attitude.
Sano's career strikeout rate (36.1%) is considerably higher than Carter's (33.3%). It was at an outrageous 40% before he went down this year. While Sano still looks reasonably capable at third base, he's undeniably trending the wrong direction.
The majestic power won't go away. But neither has that of Carter, who now finds himself a journeyman at age 31. Perhaps, if they have a passing encounter on Thursday, Sano will make a note of it.
I found this quote from Paul Molitor, while an MLB investigation floated over Sano's head at Twins camp, rather interesting:
“I think the trend has been he’s figuring some things out; some things have been a little harder to get through to him,” Molitor said. “At times I’ve tried to involve people that might be able to provide a voice that will penetrate. We’re just trying to get him to see the bigger picture.
“He loves to play. It’s all in front of him. He, as much as anyone in that clubhouse, wants what’s in front of him, but I’m not sure he understands what is required to reap those rewards — of competing, winning, financial security, taking care of his family. We’re trying.”
The decision to bring Carter aboard was obviously not motivated by a desire to send some overly dramatic message to Sano. But the 24-year-old, very much at a career crossroads, would be wise to take it as such.
The thought of that future, given his infinitely higher potential, should scare the dickens out of him.
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