As Manny Ramirez was officially released on Friday at his request, the A's 25-man roster (and by extension, the 40-man) is starting to gel. Brandon Moss has firmly grasped the 1B position, winning AL Player of the Week honors last week. (His Oakland mayoral candidacy, however, may have to wait). Seth Smith, Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jonny Gomes are all in the OF/DH mix. Adam Rosales and Eric Sogard will apparently pass each other at least 5 times on I-80 somewhere around Vacaville.
One name, however, is conspicuously absent from this list. As of this moment, DH candidate Chris Carter tolis away in Sacramento. Most A's fans know something of his story: he's a large, right-handed power bat who can play defense like Bartolo Colon hits MLB pitching. Some fans think he is all but washed up, after two brief, but relatively unsuccessful stints in 2010 and 2011. Some fans, such as myself, believe he has gotten short shrift. Here, I present my arguments why, in the absence of Manny, Carter should be given the majority of the remaining DH at bats this season.
First, for the basic statistical review:
Basic slash line: .267/11/49
Triple-slash and more: .267/.351/.475
My argument, however, is less statistical and more practical. Indeed, he has yet to reach the eye-popping numbers he had in AA in 2009.
First, and foremost, is that Chris Carter has never been given an adequate chance. While many A's fans recall his brief stints in 2010 and 2011, it's only been 124 MLB PAs for him. For comparison's sake, a young player across the Bay, Brandon Belt, has received more MLB PA this year than Carter has in his whole career. That is practically the definition of a small sample, and equates to a little more than a month's worth of regular playing time. That he was wholly unremarkable in those PAs is besides the point. If you believe, as some do, that Chris Carter has always adjusted to higher levels given time, well, now is the time to do that. Which brings me to my second point...
When else WOULD be the time for Chris Carter? While the A's have recently been on a nice run, let's also put this in perspective: the Padres and Rockies are demonstrably worse than the A's are. A .500 record would be quite the accomplishment for this team. With all due respect for Jonny Gomes and his contributions to the A's this year, he really doesn't have a place on this team. He's one of the mishmash of outfielders the A's had acquired in hopes of piecing together a starting OF. Then, the A's signed Cespedes and it threw a monkey wrench in those plans. The "mostly-DH" position is really the only one Chris Carter can play.
Third, is that a competitive team does not generally consist of rookies and other inexperienced players. Most players need to survive at least a year-plus of adjustments at the MLB level in order to judge what their career arc might look like. Today, Chris Carter is 25 years old, and pushing the definition of prospect. Also, if Carter is going to be a middle-of-the-order power threat, his most productive years are bound to be starting around his age 27 season. So, if the A's hope to extract maximum value from him on a competitive team sometime around 2014, he needs to start seeing consistent MLB pitching very shortly.
The 4th and final reason is, frankly, why not? If Chris Carter is the power hitter the A's have cracked him up to be, it would sure make the A's an exciting team to watch if Cespedes and Carter were punishing long HRs. Let's be honest: the A's surely aren't waiting for his glove to mature because Chris Carter does not have an MLB position. Every scouting report on him ever has taken him for a below-average defender. If he's not going to be anything other than a failed prospect, it's time to find that out now.
This year was originally designated a rebuilding year, and that's when a system must evaluate the higher-level talent it does have and then groom its very young talent to fill in those future gaps at the MLB level. Yes, the on-field result might not be pretty. But with the A's having been shutout 11 times thus far, fans should be used to not pretty on a semi-regular basis. At least if the A's are going to lose, they should lose with up-and-coming players learning the league than with older veterans whose careers are on the downswing.
Join dwishisnky for the game thread tonight around 7:05. These next few games will be great for us and other SoCal NRAF - Vin Scully calling A's baseball. It's the closest thing to Bill King's return I'll get.