As part of the move, the Brewers designated last year's NL home run leader for assignment, giving them 10 days to trade or release him.
But what kind of trade market is out there for a guy everyone knows will be a free agent by Saturday? We can presume the trade offers weren't exactly rolling in last July, when the Brewers were selling off everything that wasn't bolted down or could bring back decent value. If we want to give David Stearns the benefit of the doubt, we can also guess he exhausted his options before deciding to non-tender him.
If there's one thing still working in favor of a trade, it's that any receiving team would have the first opportunity to negotiate with one of last year's better right-handed power hitters. If a team is looking to add some pop to the lineup without having to open up the pocketbook for Mark Trumbo, Edwin Encarnacion, or Jose Bautista, Carter could be a fairly attractive option. However, Stearns likely gave up any leverage he had in trade negotiations with the DFA, so unless a mild bidding war breaks out before Friday, he may end up having to accept a subpar offer.
According to FanGraphs, Carter posted a WAR of 0.9 last year, ranking 19th among MLB first basemen. The list of qualifying first basemen that ranked worse isn't very long: Texas' Mitch Moreland (0.4), Houston's Marwin Gonzalez (0.3), Kansas City's Eric Hosmer (-0.2) and Oakland's Yonder Alonso (-0.3). Hosmer isn't going anywhere, while Oakland and Houston already gave up on Carter and likely won't pay what he would command in arbitration. When you look at Baseball Reference's version of WAR, the trade outlook looks even more bleak. Carter also compiled 0.9 WAR by their measurement, ranking 20th in the majors and the lowest among qualified first basemen. Carter even finished behind former Brewer Mark Reynolds (1.5) in the B-R assessment.
Carter is probably better suited as a DH anyway, so a little more hope can be found looking at weighted runs created plus (wRC+), which also accounts for park effects. Carter's wRC+ of 111 is above league average (100 is the line here), ranking him 15th among first basemen. Since we're taking defense out of the equation, we can compare him to qualified designated hitters as well, and that wRC+ of 112 would put him on par with Albert Pujols, Kansas City's Kendrys Morales (who already signed in Toronto for $33 mil), Joe Mauer and Tampa Bay's Corey Dickerson. The White Sox also slogged through the season with Justin Morneau (92) and Avisail Garcia (86) at DH, and the Yankees will be without Alex Rodriguez (56) next season while moving Gary Sanchez behind the plate.
If you're building a shortlist of teams where Carter as a DH is a possibility, it might look something like New York, Boston (do they look elsewhere for David Ortiz's replacement or move Hanley Ramirez there?), Tampa Bay (limited payroll but could use the power), Kansas City (to replace Morales) and Texas.
It's a limited list and Stearns has limited leverage, but there's a reason he described a trade as a real possibility during the Thames press conference, and he still has a few days to get at least something in return.
Statistics courtesy FanGraphs and Baseball Reference