FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox on Wednesday obtained Mike Carp from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later or cash. As transactions go, it’s unremarkable at first glance.
The 26-year-old Carp is a first baseman and occasional left fielder coming off a poor season. Seattle designated him for assignment last week and wasn’t expecting much in return.
But Carp joins a group of players in Red Sox camp competing for what could be a significant spot on the roster.
First baseman Mike Napoli, who has a condition restricting the blood flow to the bones in his hips, could need some extra days off during the season. The Sox also could use a lefthanded hitter to complement left fielder Jonny Gomes, a player with far more career success against lefthanded pitchers than righthanders.
A player capable of those skills could earn 350 or more at-bats this season.
Carp has the résumé to fill the job. He has been primarily a first baseman in his career but was Seattle’s Opening Day left fielder last season and has 52 games of experience at that position. He also has hit for power at times, connecting for 12 home runs as a rookie in 2011.
“It’s definitely a better opportunity for me than staying in Seattle as far as their needs go and my chance to get as many at-bats as possible,” Carp told the Seattle Times. “It’s really exciting. I have a chance to go to a great organization and should really get a chance to play. I’m looking forward to showing them what I can do.”
General manager Ben Cherington said Carp arrives only with an opportunity, no guarantees.
“It’s a competition and we’ll see what happens,” Cherington said. “It would be nice to have a combination of a fourth outfielder and a first baseman. We want to make sure we’re covered defensively.”
Carp is expected to join the Red Sox on Thursday. The first official game of spring training is on Saturday.
“We’ve been able to add a talented player to camp here, someone that we’ve had conversations about during the course of the offseason and finally he became available,” manager John Farrell said.
Carp may have to prove he can hit righthanders to earn a spot. For his career, he has actually hit better against lefties (.300 with an .803 OPS) than righthanders (.241 with a .721 OPS). But Carp did hit righthanders better in Triple A for two years.
“Personally, we’ve seen a very good approach at the plate, a guy that doesn’t seem to be overexposed with one certain type of pitch thrown against him. That’s a firsthand view of him,” Farrell said.
“The biggest thing is that when we looked at players to fit this role, it wasn’t a matter of one strength that stood out. The defensive versatility was equally important to the offensive production. Yes, he has had some good success against lefthanded pitching. We’ll get a better read on why that’s been once he reports and we get to know him more as a person and a player.”
Carp hit .213 last season over 59 games. He missed 78 games because of three stints on the disabled list. Over his final 25 games in the majors, Carp was 22 of 75 (.293) with four extra-base base hits and seven RBIs.
He had a strong season in 2011, hitting .276 with a .791 OPS.
“We like the fit,” Cherington said. “He’s still young. We want to get him in here and see what he can do.”
Carp joins a crowded field of candidates for a spot on the Red Sox bench. Lyle Overbay, a veteran first baseman, will soon start working in the outfield to increase his chances. The Sox also have Daniel Nava, a switch-hitting outfielder who has been working out at first base the last week.
Mark Hamilton, a hulking first baseman and left fielder, is in camp on a minor league contract.
The Sox could elect to keep one bench player for first base and another for left field. That would give non-roster outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Mitch Maier a better shot at making the team.
“We’re open to what works,” Cherington said.
Farrell broke the news of the trade to the players who could be affected. Overbay wasn’t surprised, saying the Sox warned him they were pursuing other options.
“I just do what I can and see if I fit. That’s all I can do,” he said. “I know John has to feel comfortable with four outfielders if he goes with me, that kind of thing. Those are little things when it comes down to it. I have to show I can perform.
“You bring guys in here to win games and to give options because you never know those unknowns.”
Sweeney and Overbay have opt-outs on their minor league contracts. Overbay can declare free agency on March 26 if he is not on the 40-man roster, Sweeney on March 28.Continued...