No, seriously. Carpenter was in the midst of an epic, power-fueled comeback for the Yankees in 2022 before a broken foot sidelined him. The longtime Cardinal only had 154 plate appearances in 47 games, but hit ..305 with 15 home runs and 37 RBI with a 1.138 OPS. Additionally, his homers accounted for 15 of just 39 total hits.
All of this after Carpenter hit .203 in his last three years in St. Louis and, as he told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, “fell off a cliff.”
A simple switch in swing mechanics later, and Carpenter is a tempting option on the free agent market. And yes, the Yankees should absolutely re-sign him for both baseball and leadership reasons.
First, let’s look at Carpenter’s time with the Yankees from a hitting standpoint. He’s always been something of a pull hitter his whole career, but became a pure pull bat in New York. His pull rate (Pull%) was 60% last year, well above his career mark of 41.9%. Clearly, Carpenter understood the benefit of having a strong lefty power swing in Yankee Stadium.
Carpenter also fit right into the Yankees’ clubhouse when he arrived in May. He immediately bought into the team’s goals and said the Yankees had that “it factor” of all successful teams. This is pretty high praise considering all the years he spent with the ever-consistent Cardinals, who Carpenter helped lead to the World Series in 2013.
In turn, Carpenter became a great leader in the Yankees locker room. He was always supportive and cheering guys on, even after breaking his foot in August. In a way, the Brett Gardner void was filled.
The downside is as great as Carpenter was last season, it’s unrealistic to expect the same from him in 2023. He’s 37 now and it was obvious his broken foot wasn’t fully healthy when he came back for the playoffs. Moreover, he’d essentially be returning as a backup designated hitter.
Yet, general manager Brian Cashman should take this risk. Carpenter was a reliable lefty bat off the bench last year and should continue to be in 2023. He won’t hit home runs at the same clip, but will hit enough and otherwise work good at-bats. Not to mention, his clubhouse presence and leadership could prove even more valuable if Judge leaves in free agency.
Matt Carpenter was more than just a comeback story that happened on the New York Yankees last season. There was a point where it felt like he was the Yankees. If Cashman is intent on running it back in 2023, he needs to ensure Carpenter returns.
That is, only after re-signing Judge.
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