Padres sign Matt Carpenter

The Padres added some oomph to their lineup Tuesday, reportedly agreeing to a two-year, $12 million contract with a veteran infielder/outfielder. matt carpenter. Carpenter, an SSG Baseball client, can opt out of the contract after the 2023 season by declining a 2024 player option. The contract pays Carpenter a $3 million signing bonus and $3.5 million salary for the season. 2023, and will have to decide on a $5.5 million player option next winter. He can also reportedly earn $500K bonuses for reaching each of 300, 350, 400, 450, 500 and 550 plate appearances in both contract seasons.

Carpenter, who turned 37 last month, enjoyed one of the most remarkable rebounding campaigns in recent memory last season. Carpenter, a three-time All-Star with the Cardinals, appeared to be on the wane as he posted a combined .176/.313/.291 batting line in 418 plate appearances with St. Louis from 2020-21.

last low season, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic detailed the way Carpenter reinvented himself, taking a data-driven approach to hitting and getting feedback from people like joey votto, Matt Holliday and a private hitting coach as he renewed his swing and all of his focus at the plate. The Rangers were intrigued enough to sign him to a minor league contract.

We often see stories of veterans making late-career trades, but few have found the level of success that Carpenter enjoys. After hitting .275/.379/.613 in 21 games with the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate, Carpenter was released by Texas (oops) and signed a major league contract with the Yankees, for whom he posted a comic limit of .305/. .412/.727 slash. Carpenter hit 15 home runs in just 154 plate appearances, and while surely the dimensions of Yankee Stadium helped him somewhat, he still hit six of those home runs and hit .253/.333/.506 on the road.

Simply put, and quite surprisingly, Carpenter was the best hitter in baseball in terms of rate in 2022 (min. 100 plate appearances). He led all of baseball in slugging percentage, isolated power (slugging minus batting average), and wRC+ (217), ranked second only to Aaron Judge in terms of on-base percentage, and posted the 12th-best batting average of any player in the game. Carpenter’s rate of “barred” balls (by Statcast’s definition) was elite, and his average exit velocity and hard-hit rate from him were comfortably north of the league average. There’s no realistic way to expect him to keep up that pace, but Carpenter has clearly put himself back on the map as a viable big-league slugger.

Unfortunately for both team and player, the reinvigorated Carpenter fouled his foot in early August, causing a fracture that ended the remainder of his regular season. A predictably rusty Carpenter jumped right back onto the Yankees’ playoff roster, but he only went 1-for-12 with an alarming nine strikeouts between ALDS and ALCS.

With the Padres, Carpenter becomes the favorite for the designated hitter job, though the Yankees played him at both infield corner positions and at both corner outfield positions in 2022. He also recorded over 1,900 career innings at second base, though the defensive metrics on his limited work there in 2021 were off-putting, to say the least. Still, he could potentially serve as an option there in an emergency.

The deal with Carpenter pushes the Padres to more than $246 million in real cash payroll for the 2023 season and raises their luxury tax book to nearly $267 million, as projected by Roster Resource. The Padres are already in the second penalty tier, and as they are entering their third consecutive season on the luxury line, they are paying a 62% rate on every dollar in the second leg ($253MM to $273MM). As such, Carpenter will cost them an additional $3.72MM in taxes for the 2023 campaign.

AJ Cassavell of first reported the two sides had reached an agreement with a player option for 2024. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the terms and financial details (Twitter links).

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