No Royals player has hit more than the 36 home runs hit by Steve Balboni in 1985. Balboni was a poor-fielding strikeout machine, but when he ran into the right pitch he could hit it a country mile. The year he set the franchise record for home runs, he also lead the league in strikeouts, whiffing 166 times. Two years later, he hit .207, which got him released by the club.
If the Royals are looking for the next Steve Balboni, the Brewers might have just made him available. In a bit of a surprising move, the team designated Chris Carter for assignment after a 41-home run season by the right-handed slugger. The Brewers could possibly trade him, but with their leverage undercut now, it seems unlikely it would take much to get him, and he could very well become a free agent by the non-tender deadline this Friday. With the Royals facing a hole in the lineup with the departure of Kendrys Morales, they may look to Carter as an option.
Carter fits the mold of Balboni to a tee - he hits for a low average, strikeouts a ton, plays poor defense, and clobbers a lot of pitches for home runs. The 29-year old .222/.321/.499 with a league-leading 41 home runs, as well as a league-leading 206 strikeouts. In his career, he has hit just .218, but has hit a home run once every 17.6 plate appearances, meaning if he got 600 plate appearances, he would get awfully close to threating Balboni’s record.
The Las Vegas native has prodiguous power, but he will cool fans off with all the whiffs. Since he became a regular in 2012, he has the sixth-highest home run-to-flyball ratio in all of baseball. He also has the seventh-highest swing-and-miss rate in all of baseball. Strikeouts have been anathema to the Royals team philosophy of high-contact. However they strayed from that approach last year, with nine clubs finishing with a lower strikeout rate than the Royals. With Dayton Moore suggesting that the team may have to take a different approach, Carter may better fit their plans than in previous seasons.
Carter did have a bit of a home/road split, posting better power numbers at Miller Park, but better on-base percentage on the road. Still, he blasted 17 home runs in 79 road games and most of his home runs would have easily cleared Kauffman Stadium.
The whiffs are a concern, but so long as he is smacking home runs and continuing to draw walks, he could still be a well-above average offensive player. Players like Chris Davis, Khris Davis, and Giancarlo Stanton strike out nearly as much, but make a living knocking the ball out of the ballpark.
Carter is a pretty awful defender, a big reason why he was worth only 0.9 WAR last year, according to Baseball-Reference. But with the Royals, this shouldn't be an issue as they can stick him at designated hitter as a replacement for Kendrys Morales. Last year, Carter was worth 1.4 Offensive WAR, which would have been fourth-best on the Royals last year, behind Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Salvador Perez.
Carter was due to make around $8 million in arbitration next year, according to estimates from MLB Trade Rumors, but if he becomes a free agent next week, he is free to sign whatever contract he is offered. Because of his youth, Carter could net a two-year deal, especially coming off a 41-home run season. But the cost should be reasonable - around $6-8 million per year - and it may only take a one-year deal to land the slugger. The market for designated hitters is flooded right now,which could help drive down the price for the Royals. They may want to look for Carter's elite power, so long as they can overlook other flaws to his game.