Former Astros slugger Carter joins Crew

Former Astros slugger Carter joins Crew

MILWAUKEE -- Mark another first for Brewers general manager David Stearns, who signed his first Major League free agent on Wednesday: former Astros slugger Chris Carter.

Stearns, who was Houston's assistant GM before coming to Milwaukee, once again tapped his former organization and signed the first baseman and outfielder to a one-year contract. Carter becomes the front-runner to start at first base for Milwaukee and provides a right-handed bat that produces home runs and strikeouts in abundance.

According to multiple reports, Carter will earn $2.5 million, with another $500,000 available in incentives. The Brewers designated catcher Josmil Pinto for assignment to make room on a full 40-man roster.

After helping one team emerge from a long rebuilding period, Carter joins a Brewers club in the beginning stages of one.

"It's a fun process to watch happen," he said before boarding a flight home to Las Vegas. "It was a fun clubhouse there [in Houston]. We had a good time. It stinks to leave right when they get to success, get to the playoffs. But it's a new chapter for me, a fresh start in my career.

"It's a chance to play first base every day, and I already knew the GM, David Stearns. It felt like a good fit for me."

Carter, who turned 29 just before Christmas, was a regular in the Astros' lineup for the three seasons Stearns worked in that club's front office. Carter hit 90 home runs in 422 games in Houston, and also struck out 545 times, including a Major League-leading 232 whiffs in 2013, when he recorded 29 home runs and 82 RBIs in his first full season as a Major League starter.

He hit 37 home runs in '14 and added 24 more in '15, when Carter batted .199 with 64 RBIs and 151 strikeouts in 129 games, including 105 starts at first base and seven as the designated hitter.

When he gets hot, Carter is a force at the plate. He helped the Astros wrap up an American League Wild Card spot in 2015 by batting .353 (12-for-34) with six home runs and 10 RBIs in the team's final 15 regular season games. Of hitters with at least 35 plate appearances during that stretch, Carter led the Majors in OPS (1.376) and slugging percentage (.971) as the Astros edged the Angels by one game to earn a postseason berth.

Carter continued hitting into the playoffs, batting .294 (5-for-17) while manning first base in all six of Houston's postseason games. He fell a triple shy of the cycle in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against Kansas City.

Carter was arbitration-eligible after earning $4.175 million and became a free agent when the Astros opted to non-tender him. The Brewers' interest in him developed recently, Carter said.

"It was a waiting game," he said. "I was a little impatient because I wanted to know what would happen. It was my first time in the whole free agency thing. I'm glad it's over now."

In the Brewers' statement announcing the deal, Stearns touted Carter as "one of the most consistent power threats in the game."

"Obviously, he's a guy I'm familiar with, having watched him the last three years in Houston," Stearns said. "He brings a tremendous amount of power to our lineup. We believe he will perform well in this ballpark because he has power to all fields. For a right-handed hitter, that plays well in this ballpark. We think he's a good fit for our team right now."

Stearns noted that while the agreement was for one year, the Brewers could control Carter for up to three years. He will be arbitration-eligible again following the '16 and '17 seasons.

Carter will not have to wait long to see his former team. The Astros, with former Brewers Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers, visit Miller Park for the second series of the regular season from April 8-10.

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
A .199 average in 2015 cost Carter his starting role with the Astros, but poor fortune on balls in play contributed to that low mark. Set to serve as the Brewers' starting first baseman, the native Californian should be set to deliver roughly 30 homers and 80 RBIs with the backdrop of hitter-friendly Miller Park. Those in deep mixed formats will be willing to live with a batting average in the range of .225 to secure Carter's counting stats, but shallow-league owners will seek a corner infielder with a more balanced profile.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.