Cut or Keep: Mike Carp & Eric Thames


Jun 02, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Seattle Mariners first baseman Mike Carp (20) gets a hit against the Chicago White Sox during the fourth inning at US Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

This will be the first part of a series analyzing some of the more questionable players on the current Mariners roster. These players have unknown roles going forward in the organization and this series will attempt to determine where each player stands. 


It wasn’t too long ago when Mike Carp looked like he would be a stable part of Seattle’s future. After destroying AAA in 2011, Carp came up to Seattle and hit .323 with 8 home runs and 34 RBIs in just 155 at bats in July and August 2011. Although his numbers dropped off in September, Carp helped energize an anemic offense and provided some real hope for the future.

One year later and Carp seems like an afterthought. Lost to an unfortunate opening day injury that would plague him for the entire season, Carp’s 2012 resulted in just 189 trips to the plate and a mere .213 with 5 home runs in total. After returning from the DL, Carp faded into the bench as the Mariners auditioned other young players – including the strikingly similar newcomer Eric Thames.

One of my first thoughts when the Mariners acquired Thames from the Blue Jays in July was “Is Mike Carp done in this organization? They’re basically the same player!” While Thames is a mere five months younger, both are left handed bats with intriguing power but fringy contact and plate discipline skills. Thames is certainly more athletic and faster, but both take terrible routes in the outfield.

To compare, lake a look at the snapshot of their profiles below. Both players are rated on the traditional scouting scale (20 is the worst, 50 is average, 80 is the best) based on adjusted numbers from the past three years. Each skill is measured by different factors and compared against all other players from 2010-2012 to generate these numbers. I’ll likely explain more in a later post, but basically batting average and home runs have been adjusted based on luck, and counting numbers are based on 600 plate appearances (or a full season).

As seen in the profiles above, Carp and Thames are extremely similar ballplayers. The only real difference is some slightly better plate discipline from Carp and much better baserunning from Thames. With Franklin Gutierrez, Michael Saunders and (presumably) Casper Wells penciled in for the 2013 roster, there just isn’t room for both of them. Not to mention the rumors of the M’s pursuing Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher in free agency. The only exception would be if the Mariners cut bait on Justin Smoak, allowing Mike Carp to slide into first base, but that seems highly unlikely. So, who is most likely to stay or go?

The deciding factor may lie in the fact that Carp is out of options, while Thames has one remaining. With the two players being so similar, it is likely that the Mariners will look to trade Carp and let Thames audition for an opening day job. If Thames disappoints in Spring Training, then he can spend some time in Tacoma without a problem. Plus, it doesn’t take any number-crunching to know that Thames is much more athletic than Carp. While both have performed pretty horribly in the outfield, there is at least hope that Thames can keep working to become a decent defender. Taking better routes is something that could be learned and hopefully Thames’ athleticism will allow him to improve himself in ways that Carp couldn’t.

With the Mariners looking to be aggressive this off-season and to add in the outfield and possibly first-base, there just aren’t many roster spots up for grabs. It’s a little difficult giving up on either player considering what has happened to similar players like Mike Morse and Raul Ibanez in the past. Like Morse and Ibanez, it’s easy to see Carp and Thames putting together some good offensive seasons in the future and making Seattle regret letting them go. They both have raw power and the ability to contribute in a winning lineup – the question is whether or not it will be in Seattle. For Mike Carp, unfortunately, his chance will most likely come somewhere outside of the Pacific Northwest.

What do you think? Which one would you keep? Or would you rather find a way to keep them both?