On Tuesday, the New York Yankees signed reigning National League home run champ Chris Carter to a one-year, $3 million deal. Adding a player who hit 41 homeruns and drove in 94 runs at such a small cost seems like a no brainer. However, Carter finds himself in a scenario that most likely ends up with him being a bench player/injury insurance, a year removed from leading the league in homers.
With the Yankees fire sale and rebuild last summer into this offseason, it seemed as though the team was set on letting the youngsters or "baby bombers" as they now go by, play and develop as a group in an effort to create the next core group of Yankees. However, thus far this offseason they have added Matt Holliday who may end up taking at bats away from Aaron Judge. Now they have signed Chris Carter leading many Yankee fans to start scratching their heads with the impending return of young slugger Greg Bird who came up and put on a show two seasons ago with his bat. He was forced to miss all of last season due to shoulder surgery but with the retirement of Mark Teixeira, the first base spot seemed like a virtual lock to be his. Now it is starting to seem like far from a lock. It is not yet known whether Bird can handle playing every day in the field but now Carter will at the very least be able to offer a capable back up.
There is a player on the Yankees roster that is definitely impacted more than Bird. That player is Tyler Austin. Austin had a phenomenal year last season in the minors which prompted him to be promoted alongside top prospect Aaron Judge. The two players hit back to back homers in their MLB debuts and Austin went on to finish the year respectably however not amazingly. In fairness to him, Austin was thrusted into the 1B position after being an outfielder his entire career and he handled it well. Now he finds himself in the opposite position. Perhaps without a position yet again.
The Yankees signed Ji-Man Choi to be their Triple-A first baseman this season which means that Tyler Austin will most likely have to move back to the outfield. At first, it was believed Austin would compete with Bird at first base, but with Carter in the fold, it seems unlikely he'll have the chance to beat out Bird. So without a clear first base vacancy at the big league level, Austin will have to fight it out for the big league fourth outfielder spot or another bench spot, with the chance he still lands in Triple-A.
As for the MLB roster, the Yankees want Greg Bird to win the first base position outright but that does not mean they will hand it to him.
In an interview with Mike Francesa earlier this week GM Brian Cashman stated that he was brutally honest with Chris Carter and that he told him he would have to take a reduced role and be willing to come off the bench in a pinch. However true this may be, there remains the chance that Carter comes into spring training and beats Greg Bird out for the firsrt base job, because nothing is guaranteed.