Friars find flexibility, lefty bat in deal with Carpenter

Veteran signs 1-year contract with player option for '24 after resurgent year in Bronx

December 21st, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres landed the lefty bat they were searching for.

has agreed to a deal with San Diego for the 2023 season, with a player option for '24, the Padres announced on Tuesday. Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but a source told that the deal would pay Carpenter $6 million in ‘23 and another $6 million in '24 if he were to opt in -- with escalators in his contract that could take it up to $21 million in total.

The 37-year-old Carpenter will be entering his 13th big league season, having spent the first 11 with the Cardinals before joining the Yankees in 2022. In New York, Carpenter's regular season came to an early end due to a broken left foot, but he posted one of the best slash lines in baseball when healthy -- .305/.412/.727.

The veteran on-base threat is expected to serve in something of a utility capacity in San Diego, capable of playing first base, both outfield corners and DH -- while potentially even backing up Ha-Seong Kim at second and Manny Machado at third.

“First and foremost, I’m here because I want to win,” Carpenter said. “Whatever that takes, whatever that role is, how it ends up shaking out, I’ll gladly accept it.”

What are the Padres getting?

A three-time All-Star, Carpenter experienced quite a resurgence in the Bronx before he broke his foot in early August. He spent the previous offseason reinventing his swing, and the results were otherworldly, as Carpenter homered 15 times in 128 at-bats with a 1.139 OPS and a 217 wRC+.

“I went on a journey last offseason to kind of redefine myself and refine my swing,” Carpenter said. “… I followed up with a really good season. I’m very thankful for the people that helped me along the way, and I’m looking forward to building on that in San Diego.”

At 37, Carpenter almost certainly wouldn't be expected to play regularly in the field. But he has plenty of experience at first, second, third and both outfield corners.

Realistically, Carpenter might be asked to serve mostly as a designated hitter in San Diego, where the Padres already boast an infield of Machado, Xander Bogaerts, Kim and Jake Cronenworth. (And that's before Fernando Tatis Jr. returns from his suspension.)

Carpenter has developed a reputation for being one of the toughest at-bats in the sport, posting a .369 career on-base percentage. Whether he’s starting against righties or coming off the bench against left-handers, the Padres envision Carpenter as a useful hitter in just about any capacity.

How does he fit?

A .269/.378/.469 career hitter against right-handed pitching, Carpenter feels like a strong fit for a lineup that skewed a bit too righty-heavy. His inclination for punishing fastballs should fit this lineup nicely as well.

Carpenter's versatility makes him a useful piece, even if he isn't the defender he once was. Still, the bulk of Carpenter's at-bats will likely come as a DH or pinch-hitter.

“I pride myself on being a guy that can move around -- I can play lots of positions, I can help us out in many facets,” Carpenter said. “But I think my M.O. is just that competitive at-bat. … Whenever my name’s called on, whatever my role is for that day -- give that at-bat and be a staple for our club.”

But it's easy to envision something of a timeshare between the lefty Carpenter at first and the righty Kim at second -- with Cronenworth sliding between the two positions. That plan, however, is dependent on another Padres signing this winter. Without another addition, perhaps Carpenter platoons at DH with one of the Padres’ righty-hitting bench pieces -- say, Luis Campusano or Brandon Dixon.

Whatever role Carpenter fills, he feels like a natural fit for a San Diego offense that was potent at the top, but lacking a bit in left-handed-hitting depth.

What's next?

It's been an eventful couple days for general manager A.J. Preller and the Padres. They agreed with right-hander Seth Lugo on a similar contract -- one year, with a player option for 2024. They also agreed to a deal with Pedro Severino, giving them some depth behind the plate.

This recent transaction spree has the Padres close to a full roster. But they're not quite there yet. The team is still looking to add another starter as a depth option, with the preference being to open the season by skewing toward a six-man rotation.

Offensively, Carpenter's arrival fills the last void in the starting lineup. But the Padres could still use a fourth outfielder, perhaps someone capable of platooning with Trent Grisham in center. (A corner outfielder works, too, if Tatis were to slide between center and a corner.)

Either way, the Padres appear to be inching ever closer to completing their roster puzzle.