Seattle’s acquisition of Kendrys Morales is sure to spark a number of Rays-related rumors, tying Tampa Bay to one or more of the Mariners’ excess hitters. Given the Rays’ previous reported interest in left-handed batters (like Raul Ibanez, Nate Schierholtz, and Juan Francisco) it stands to reason one such name that may come up is Mike Carp.
Carp’s 2011 season is what everyone remembers about him. During that season, he hit 12 home runs and boasted a 125 OPS+ in limited duty. You can be forgiven for glancing at the numbers and pegging him as a platoon bat. In truth, he looked worse than that modest projection. Carp is a poor athlete. He does not run or throw well, which limits him defensively to first base or designated hitter. The offense-starved Mariners played Carp in a corner by necessity more than merit. Besides, they typically had superior alternatives staffing first base and DH. It’s a tough break for Carp because his defensive and baserunning shortcomings put more emphasis on his bat.
At the plate Carp showed a poor understanding of the strike zone. Pitchers would ask him to expand his zone and he would oblige too often for comfort. He made a number of questionable swing decisions throughout. The old adage about good hitters fouling late, poor hitters fouling early came to mind; you can guess when Carp did his fouling. Carp does have some raw power, but not of the plus-plus variety and not enough to make up for his shortcomings. His hit tool is poor and he showed limited plate coverage. Factor in a bat that looked slow, even against average velocity from right-handed pitchers, and you’re left shuddering at the thought of what top-end velocity might do to him.
With so much of Carp’s value depending on the bat he can’t afford to have that many underwhelming offensive attributes. I will note that he went to the disable list thrice last season, twice with shoulder-related woes, meaning it’s possible his body held him back. If not, Carp doesn’t appear to be a fit on the Rays roster.