After a lengthy trip through free agency, first baseman/designated hitter Chris Carter has found a new home. The Yankees announced on Thursday that they’ve signed the Sports Management Partners client to a one-year deal, confirming previous reports of the agreement. Carter will reportedly be guaranteed $3.5MM on the new contract. The deal is also reported to contain up to $500K worth of incentives; Carter will earn $100K for reaching each of 250, 300, 350, 400 and 450 plate appearances.
[RELATED: Updated Yankees Depth Chart]
New York is adding the National League’s 2016 co-leader in home runs in Carter, who swatted 41 long balls as a member of the Brewers. Despite that, Milwaukee elected to non-tender Carter in late November after it couldn’t find a taker for him via trade. Carter would have made a projected $8.1MM this year via arbitration, so the Yankees are landing him at a discounted rate after he sat on the open market for over two months.
The Yankees will be the fifth organization for the 30-year-old Carter, a 2005 White Sox draft pick who debuted with the Athletics in 2010 and has hit no fewer than 24 HRs in any individual season since 2013, his 1st full campaign in the MLB. Along with his prodigious power (he also led the NL in ISO last season), Carter provides above-average patience, having drawn walks at an 11.6 percent clip in his career.
Power and patience aside, there’s no value to be found elsewhere in Carter’s game, as he has registered strikeout percentages in the low-30s and contact rates in the mid-60s in each of his big league seasons. Both his difficulty putting the ball in play and lack of speed have helped lead to a low batting average (.218) and underwhelming on-base percentage (.314) in 2,645 PAs. In the field, Carter has accounted for minus-19 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-15.5 Ultimate Zone Rating in 3,400-plus innings at first base.
Despite his defensive issues, Carter seems likely to be a prominent part of the Yankees’ equation at first base, as fellow free agent pickup Matt Holliday is set to be their primary designated hitter. The right-handed-hitting Carter is clearly a more established option than likely starter Greg Bird, a lefty-swinger who could platoon with Carter. And it remains to be seen how Bird will bounce back after missing all of last season because of a shoulder injury. The Yankees also have another homegrown first baseman in righty Tyler Austin, but he has a pair of minor league options remaining and could head to the Triple-A level now that Carter’s in the fold.
Although Carter’s deal is only for a single year, the Yankees can actually control him through the 2018 season if they want. Carter, after all, still has another season of arbitration eligibility remaining. For now, he’ll join catcher Gary Sanchez, Holliday, Bird and outfielder Aaron Judge as the Bombers’ best power threats.
The Yankees announced on Thursday that they’ve designated left-hander Richard Bleier for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for slugger Chris Carter, whose one-year deal is now official.
The 29-year-old Bleier made his MLB debut last season and pitched quite well, logging a 1.96 ERA in 23 innings for the Yanks. Bleier averaged 5.1 K/9 against 1.6 BB/9 to go along with a 54.1 percent ground-ball rate, though his fastball checked in at just over 89 mph, on average. Bleier, a former 6th-round pick (Rangers, 2008), greatly outperformed his minor league numbers in his short big league stint with New York. He spent the rest of the year in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he posted a 3.72 ERA with just 25 strikeouts in 58 innings (10 starts, 2 relief appearances).
The Yankees signed Bleier as a minor league free agent prior to the 2016 season, and while he proved a very useful depth option for the organization, his overall track record at Triple-A creates some doubt about his ability to sustain last year’s Major League performance. In 147 innings across parts of 4 Triple-A campaigns, Bleier has a 3.29 ERA but has averaged just 3.7 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9. While he clearly has pristine control and a penchant for inducing ground-balls, likely hurt his standing within the organization.
If Bleier is ultimately exposed to waivers and clears, he can remain in camp with the Yankees as a non-roster player and hope to once again surface in the Majors later this season.
Ex-Yankees OF Slade Heathcott get minor league deal and invite with the Giants
Outfielder Slade Heathcott has landed with the Giants on a minor-league deal that includes a camp invite, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). The 26-year-old, who was taken after Reed in the 1st round in 2009, has long been viewed as a talented player but hasn’t yet earned a full MLB opportunity. He showed well in his lone stint in the bigs, in 2015, but hit only .254/.359/.380 in his 247 Triple-A plate appearances last year.
Former Yankees and MLB Reliver Randy Choate Retires
By Steve Adams | at
Veteran left-hander Randy Choate, who spent part of the 2016 season in the minor league ranks with the Dodgers and last appeared in the Majors in 2015, tells WFAN’s Sweeny Murti that he has decided to retire. Choate didn’t receive any solid offers to continue playing in 2017, Murti writes, and the 41-year-old southpaw simply said that he “figured it was kind of time to move on.”
Originally a fifth-round draft pick by the Yankees back in 1997, Choate epitomized the “LOOGY” (left-handed one out guy) role and embraced his role as a specialist, he tells Murti: “In the seventh inning with two outs and men on first and second or bases loaded, and you’ve got to get out David Ortiz? Those are crucial moments, and there’s very little room for a mistake.”
Because of his specialized role, Choate never boasted a significant workload in terms of innings pitched. His career-high was 50 2/3 frames in a single season, though he did twice top 80 appearances in a season. Choate led the American League with 85 appearances in 2010 and led the National League with 80 appearances two years later, though in a testament to the limited nature of his role he logged just 44 2/3 innings and 38 2/3 innings, respectively, in those two campaigns.
That said, the Florida State product was unequivocally one of the best when it came to retiring same-handed opponents. In his career, Choate faced 1036 left-handed opponents and held them to a putrid .195/.276/.274 batting line with just 10 homers.
Overall, Choate’s career will come to a close with a 16-14 record, a 3.90 ERA, 112 holds and a 348-to-175 K/BB ratio in 408 regular-season innings. He earned more than $13MM during his career, per Baseball-Reference.com. And beyond his regular-season work, Choate was fortunate enough to have pitched in the postseason on five occasions in his career. He was a member of the 2000 Yankees that won a World Series Championship. He reminisces fondly about the time spent playing alongside icons Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera in his interview: “…when you get down to the end, you just realize how great the beginning was.”
Orioles Acquire Richard Bleier from Yankees, Designate Christian Walker
By Jeff Todd | at
The Orioles have acquired lefty Richard Bleierfrom the Yankees, per a club announcement, with cash or a player to be named later heading back in return. Baltimore designated 1st baseman/OF Christian Walker for assignment to create roster space.
Bleier, 29, had been designated for assignment recently by New York. The soft-tossing southpaw managed a strong 1.96 ERA in his 23 MLB frames with the Yankees last year, but managed only 5.1 K/9 to go with strong walk (1.6 BB/9) and groundball (54.1%) rates.
While that’s obviously rather promising for a debut campaign, Bleier hasn’t compiled the minor-league record to suggest its entirely sustainable. He worked to a 3.72 ERA in his 58 Triple-A innings in 2016, notching just 25 punchouts along the way. And though he has recorded an over 3.29 earned run average in 147 frames at the highest level of the minors, exhibiting excellent command along the way, he has an anemic 3.7 K/9 in that span.
As for Walker, the move rates as a disappointment after indications earlier in the offseason that he could contend for a roster spot. That hope largely came to an end when the O’s brought back Mark Trumbo, though it seemed there was at least some possibility with a big spring — until now. The 25-year-old, a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft, has received only minimal time in the big leagues with Baltimore. Over three seasons of work at Triple-A, he slashed .260/.324/.429. Though he split his time last year between first base and the outfield, that represented his first look on the grass.
7:55pm: Niese can earn a $1.25MM base salary if he cracks the roster, per Ken Davidoff of the New York Post (Twitter links). The deal also includes $750K in potential incentives, with separate packages that would allow him to earn to that amount whether he’s functioning as a starter or reliever. Manager Joe Girardi says that Niese will enter camp battling for a pen role, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch notes on Twitter.
5:26pm: The Yankees are poised to sign left-hander Jon Niese to a minor league contract, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (Twitter link). The deal will become official when Niese passes a physical. Niese is represented by O’Connell Sports Management.
A fixture in the Mets rotation from 2010-2015, Niese is coming off a rough, injury-plagued 2016 campaign. The Mets dealt Niese to the Pirates in a swap for Neil Walker last winter and the southpaw didn’t see much success in the black-and-gold, posting a 4.91 ERA, 6.5 K/9 and 1.87 K/BB rate over 110 innings as a Pirate. Niese was then dealt back to the Mets in August in exchange for Antonio ****o and pitched only 11 innings in his second stint with the Amazins before undergoing season-ending arthroscopic surgery on a torn left meniscus. The Mets declined Niese’s $10MM option for 2017, instead paying him a $500K buyout.
[Updated Yankees roster at Roster Resource]
Thirteen teams attended a workout Niese held earlier this month to demonstrate his health in the wake of his knee injury, and the Marlins also expressed some interest in Niese earlier this winter. Given his track record as a fairly steady and durable starter (3.86 ERA and 171 innings per year from 2010-15), it isn’t surprising that Niese drew a lot of looks as a potential bounce-back candidate.
Sherman reports that the Yankees see Niese as a candidate to both start or come out of the bullpen, and the 30-year-old could fill a need for New York in either department. Luis Severino, Chad Green, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell and Adam Warrenwill be in competition for the fourth and fifth spots in the Yankees’ rotation this season, and Niese adds a more experienced element to that battle.
If used as a reliever, Niese would join Tommy Layne as the top left-handed options out of the pen, with closer Aroldis Chapman obviously being saved for end-game scenarios. The Yankees were linked to such notable lefty relievers as Boone Logan and Jerry Blevins earlier this offseason, though Niese comes at a lower price tag — both Logan and Blevins will earn $6.5MM in guaranteed money in 2017, with the potential for more if the Indians and Mets respectively exercise club options on each southpaw.
While Niese has never been much of a strikeout pitcher over his career, he does own an impressive 50.1% ground ball rate, which would serve him well pitching at Yankee Stadium. Of course, Niese’s problems in 2016 were largely caused by the long ball, as he saw his home run rate spike to a whopping 22.1% last season. While such a giant increase could’ve been an aberration, Niese’s home run rates have been on the rise in each of the last four seasons.