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Top 100 Indians: #80 Joe Carter

From a Cleveland perspective, trading Joe Carter trade to San Diego was really the first step in building the mid-90s Indians clubs. Yeah, there were some key pieces already in the organization in 1989 (Albert Belle and Charles Nagy to name a couple) but the Carter deal was a defining moment in the building process.

Joe Carter.
Joe Carter.
David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Joseph Chris Carter

Center Fielder/Left Field/First Baseman, 1984-1989

Height: 6' 3" Weight: 215 lbs

Bats: Right Throws: Right

Acquired: Trade, 6-13-1984 (Chicago Cubs):

Traded by the Chicago Cubs with RHP Daryl Banks, OF Mel Hall, and RHP Don Schulze for RHP George Frazier, C Ron Hassey, and RHP Rick Sutcliffe

Left Via: Trade, 12-6-1989 (San Diego)

Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the San Diego Padres for C Sandy Alomar, 3B Carlos Baerga, and OF Chris James

In June 1984, the Indians were once again mired in last place, while the Chicago Cubs were in serious playoff contention for the first time in over a decade. Rick Sutcliffe would be a free agent at the end of the season, and to say he wanted out of town was saying it mildly:

"If this is a ship named the Titanic," said Sutcliffe, "I wonder how many people would let the women and children off first."

Sporting News, 6-25-1984 (Peter Gammons)

Not exactly sure how to interpret that metaphor, but needless to say, Sutcliffe was going to bolt at the end of the season, and with the trade deadline approaching, the Indians were looking to get something for him. It turned out that the Cubs were interested in Sutcliffe, even though the Cleveland starter had struggled; he had lost 15 pounds in the wake of an off-season oral surgery. The Cubs had a big need for starters, even after acquiring LGFT Dennis Eckersley the month before; Scott Sanderson was still on the DL, and the rest of the rotation wasn't doing well.

Also going to the Cubs in the deal was Joe Frazier, a middle reliever, and Ron Hassey; the Indians wanted to see what they had in catching prospect Jerry Willard (one of the players in the Von Hayes haul), so Hassey, who was also going to be a free agent shortly, was also expendable.

In return the Cubs would send the Indians four players, all under 25, and all with high draft pedigrees. Darryl Banks was selected in the first round (secondary phase) of the 1980 Draft, though had struggled in the minors with control. Don Schulze was the Cubs' first round pick in the regular 1980 Draft, and at 21 was already pitching in the majors. Mel Hall was the most accomplished of the bunch, already with 722 plate appearances under his belt at age 22. And last but not least was the subject of this profile.

Joe Carter attended Wichita State, and helped build the Shockers into one of the best programs in college baseball; in each of his three seasons he was named an All-American, and was named the 1981 Player of the Year by both the Sporting News and All-America Baseball News. He was the second player taken in the 1981 draft, and was sent to AA Midland. After spending the 1981 and 1982 seasons in Midland, he was promoted to Iowa in 1983, getting a cup of coffee with the Cubs. But he was sent back to Iowa in 1984, and remained there until the trade.

The Cubs had their doubts as to whether Carter would hit despite the good minor-league numbers; to say that Carter struggled in 1983 was an understatement; Joe struck out an amazing 21 times in 52 plate appearances, and didn't draw a single walk. His approach seemed to have changed somewhat in 1984 with Iowa, but by then the Cubs were in win-now mode. Chicago's impatience was Cleveland's gain; the Indians brought the 24-year-old Carter straight to the majors, and after an initial platoon with Hall, Carter became an everyday player.

The Indians were looking for power production in the outfield, and with Carter, they got what they were looking for. Manager Pat Corrales moved Carter around in the outfield, trying to find the right fit for his defensive abilities, but at the plate, Carter was very productive; he would never be a patient hitter, but he made up for that with tremendous power and also an excellent stolen base percentages. After a down 1985, he had his best season in 1986; he just missed becoming a member of the 30-30 (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases), hitting 29 home runs and stealing 29 bases. He hit .302/.335/.514 that season, leading the league in RBIs (121) and finishing 9th in MVP voting. That Indians team had a fantastic lineup, with 8 of the 9 regulars posting an OPS+ over 100.

That great offensive season was the main reason the Indians made the cover of Sports Illustrated, but unfortunately everything fell apart in 1987, mainly because of an awful pitching staff. Carter had a fine 1987 season, this time reaching the 30-30 plateau; he'd be the last Indian to achieve that feat until Grady Sizemore did it in 2008.

Joe Carter was a very durable player for the Indians, rarely coming out of the lineup after becoming a regular in 1985. The problem was that Carter was not a very good defensive player, no matter where the Indians tried him; even though he had good speed, he just didn't get very good jumps in the outfield, so the Indians would from time to time try him at first base. He has a career -16.5 dWAR, which is one of the lowest totals I've seen; I wasn't able to see exactly where Carter ranks on the all-time dWAR list, as Baseball-Reference has only the top players ranked, but I would imagine that Carter has to rank towards the bottom given his long career and his consistently bad defense even as a young player. By the end of his tenure with the Indians, Carter had settled in center field, presumably because the Indians figured that they'd take the tradeoff between the offense and defense given the positional value.

By the time 1989 rolled around, the Indians as a franchise had reached a key point; the political leaders of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County were trying to get funding for a new stadium in order to keep the Indians from moving, and Hank Peters was now calling the shot as far as players were concerned. Carter played in all 162 games that season and hit 35 home runs, but he was one season away from free agency, and the Indians needed more talent. So that winter Peters dealt Carter to San Diego, who gave Carter an extension as part of the deal. That deal brought the Indians Sandy Alomar (#99 on our list), Carlos Baerga (who also made our list), and Chris James.

That wasn't the last franchise-altering trade Carter would be a part of. After a sub-par 1989 season, the Padres dealt him and Roberto Alomar to Toronto for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff. The Padres made out very well with McGriff, but the Blue Jays made the playoffs in each of the following three seasons, and won the World Series in 1992 and 1993. Carter of course would be known for his World Series-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1993 Series, and would remain with Toronto through the 1997 season; from 1991-1993, he was the highest-paid player in baseball. He played with Baltimore and San Francisco in 1998, and retired after that season

Carter returned to Cleveland this past season, and talked about his time with the Indians and his post-career life:

Indians Career Stats:

1984 24 CLE 66 257 32 67 6 1 13 41 2 4 11 48 .275 .307 .467 .775 110
1985 25 CLE 143 523 64 128 27 0 15 59 24 6 25 74 .262 .298 .409 .707 93
1986 26 CLE 162 709 108 200 36 9 29 121 29 7 32 95 .302 .335 .514 .849 130
1987 27 CLE 149 629 83 155 27 2 32 106 31 6 27 105 .264 .304 .480 .784 104
1988 28 CLE 157 670 85 168 36 6 27 98 27 5 35 82 .271 .314 .478 .792 117
1989 29 CLE 162 705 84 158 32 4 35 105 13 5 39 112 .243 .292 .465 .757 110
CLE (6 yrs) 839 3493 456 876 164 22 151 530 126 33 169 516 .269 .309 .472 .781 112
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/26/2012.

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 20th Slugging % (.472)
  • 46th Games Played (839)
  • 40th At Bats (3256)
  • 44th Plate Appearances (3493)
  • 39th Runs Scored (456)
  • 42nd Hits (876)
  • 31st Total Bases (1537)
  • 39th Doubles (164)
  • 12th Home Runs (151)
  • t-21st Runs Batted In (530)
  • 19th Strikeouts (516)
  • 18th Stolen Bases (126)
  • t-46th Adjusted OPS+ (112)
  • 36th Runs Created (482)
  • 22nd Extra Base Hits (337)
  • 50th Times on Base (1077)
  • t-31st Hit by Pitch (32)
  • 13th Stolen Base % (79.25%)
  • 2nd Power-Speed (137.4)
  • t-20th AB/HR (21.6)
  • 31st WPA (5.1)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader:

  • t-2nd, Games Played (162, 1986; 1989)
  • t-35th Game Played (157, 1988)
  • 1st, At Bats (663, 1986)
  • 7th, At Bats (651, 1989)
  • 32nd, At Bats (621, 1988)
  • t-18th, Plate Appearances (709, 1986)
  • t-25th, Plate Appearances (705, 1989)
  • t-42nd, Runs Scored (108, 1986)
  • t-26th, Hits (200, 1986)
  • 15th, Total Bases (341, 1986)
  • t-37th, Total Bases (303, 1989)
  • t-19th, Home Runs (35, 1989)
  • t-31st, Home Runs (32, 1987)
  • t-21st, Runs Batted In (121, 1986)
  • t-50th, Strikeouts (112, 1989)
  • t-46th, Stolen Bases (31, 1987)
  • t-24th Extra Base Hits (74, 1986)
  • t-33rd, Extra Base Hits (71, 1989)
  • t-42nd, Extra Base Hits (69, 1988)
  • t-46th, Hit By Pitch (9, 1987)
  • t-32nd, Stolen Base % (84.38%, 1988)
  • 34th, Stolen Base % (83.78%, 1987)
  • 2nd, Power-Speed (31.5, 1987)
  • 4th, Power-Speed (29.0, 1986)
  • 8th, Power-Speed (27.0, 1988)
  • 28th, Power-Speed (19.0, 1989)
  • 29th, Power-Speed (18.5, 1985)
  • 35th, WPA (3.9, 1986)

Selected Awards/Leaders:

AL MVP Voting: 9th, 1986; 20th, 1988; 16th, 1989

AL Offensive WAR: 7th, 1986

AL Slugging %: 6th, 1986; 10th, 1989

AL Runs Scored: 4th, 1986

AL Hits: 5th, 1986

AL Doubles: 9th, 1986

AL Triples: 3rd, 1986; 9th, 1988

AL Home Runs: 9th, 1986; 6th, 1988, 2nd, 1989

AL Runs Created: 5th, 1986

AL Runs Batted In: 1st, 1986; 9th, 1987; 9th, 1988; 4th, 1989

AL Extra Base Hits: 4th, 1986; 4th, 1988; 2nd, 1989