The Boston Red Sox have made plenty of moves during this offseason, but the team wasn’t done even as spring training got underway. There weren’t many holes left for the Red Sox to fill after a flurry of activity during the organization’s makeover, but there was one role left that General Manager Ben Cherington was hoping to address. He may have done that by acquiring first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
This is far from a blockbuster move for either team, but it has the potential to be a significant trade, at least from the Red Sox’ perspective. Carp is coming off of a very underwhelming season in Seattle. Due to multiple injuries, he managed to play in only 59 games. He hit just .213 in 164 at bats and added 5 home runs.
His previous Major League experience was still only limited. In 2009 and 2010 he combined for 35 games. In 2011, he appeared in a career high 79 games and hit .276 with 12 home runs while splitting time in AAA. At just 26-years-old, Carp is still young enough to improve. He has had success in the minors; over the course of 9 seasons, he hit .296 and had 136 home runs, which included 29 with AAA Tacoma in 2010.
The role for which Carp will be competing is not a full-time job, though he may fill a need for the Red Sox. Boston is still looking for its primary backup first baseman and outfielder and has wanted a left-hander for that job. Mike Napoli may shift from first base to catch an occasional game and will have days off from time to time give his degenerative hips a rest. The Sox would also like a left-handed complement for Jonny Gomes in left field.
Ryan Kalish was originally expected to share time with Gomes, but he has been put on the 60-day disabled list because of a torn labrum. That opened up a roster spot for which Carp was brought in to compete.
The job isn’t his by default, however. Cherington has not made any promises to him in terms of playing time. He will have to earn the job and there will be several other players trying to do the same. Chief among them is Daniel Nava. The 30-year-old has had stints with the Red Sox in 2010 and 2012, putting up a .243 batting average. He got a lot of playing time last year as the Sox dealt with injuries and trades.
A few other players signed to minor league deals with spring training invitations will also have a shot to win the role: Mitch Maier, Mark Hamilton, Lyle Overbay, and Ryan Sweeney. Maier comes to Boston after a few underwhelming seasons in Kansas City. Hamilton has pretty much been a career minor leaguer in the St. Louis system. Overbay is in the latter stages of his career and has never played in the outfield. Sweeney spent time with the Red Sox last year and hit .260.
Realistically, Carp should have a real shot at being a contributor to this Red Sox team. He wouldn’t have been brought in if he wasn’t going to get serious consideration for making the roster. And, while it may be a backup role, it is a job in which he could see more than 300 at bats, which would be about half a season’s worth of work.
The deal makes sense for the Red Sox. They won’t end up giving up a major player and they need another first baseman and outfielder. Carp can be both. If he is able to stay healthy, it is unlikely he will perform as poorly as he did last season in Seattle. Even if he does, there will be a few other players ready to step in.