The Braves have released veteran infielder/designated hitter Matt Carpenter, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Atlanta acquired Carpenter a few days ago, taking on $4MM of this year’s $5.5MM salary (and the associated luxury tax hit) as a means of effectively purchasing left-handed reliever Ray Kerr from the Padres.
While the Braves had hoped to trade Carpenter in similar fashion to Marco Gonzales, Evan White and Max Stassi (all of whom they acquired and quickly dealt away in salary-driven swaps), it seems they weren’t able to find a taker for Carpenter even at that rate. He’ll now be a free agent who’ll cost a new team only the league minimum for any time spent on the big league roster — the Braves and Padres will remain on the hook for the rest of his salary.
Carpenter, 38, had a brilliant bounceback season with the Yankees in 2022 when he slashed .305/.412/.727 with 15 home runs in just 154 trips to the plate. A broken foot ended his season, but that eye-popping resurgence was still enough to land him a two-year, $12MM deal with the Padres last offseason.
Unfortunately for the Padres and Carpenter alike, his 2023 campaign looked more like the 2020-21 version of Carpenter who’d looked to be on the decline. In 237 plate appearances with the Friars last year, Carpenter hit just .176/.322/.319. He still walked at a massive 17.3% clip, but Carpenter’s strikeout rate spiked as his exit velocity and hard-hit rate trended in the other direction. The former Cardinals star’s newfound focus on elevating the ball at career-high levels served him well in 2022, but he perhaps took that too far in ’23, lifting 10 harmless pop-ups in his tiny sample of plate appearances. Given his huge walk and strikeout rates, Carpenter only put 125 balls in play last year — 10 of which were effectively automatic outs.
Now that he’s a free agent and can be signed on a league-minimum MLB deal or even on a minor league deal and spring training invite, Carpenter should draw interest from teams seeking left-handed bats. A return to that Herculean production from the summer of 2022 might not be plausible, but there’d be little to no risk for a new club trying to catch lightning in a bottle in the same manner as the 2022 Yankees did.