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Yankees couldn't afford to pass on Chris Carter

Chris Carter hit 41 homers for the Brewers last season to share the NL lead with Nolan Arenado of the Rockies. Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The first conversations that the New York Yankees had about Chris Carter took place in the fall, as the Milwaukee Brewers sorted through their options with a slugger who was tied for the National League lead with 41 homers in 2016. The two sides didn't work out a deal, the Brewers released Carter, and the Yankees signed Matt Holliday, presumably to take a lot of plate appearances at designated hitter.

Carter remained unsigned into December, into January, the price tag seemingly dropping. Carter's agent, Dave Stewart, mentioned in a radio interview the possibility that his client would have to think about signing in Japan. This was something that Carter had no interest in: He wanted to play in the major leagues in 2017, and was resigned to the reality that he would get far less than he expected after a season in which he posted an .821 OPS.

Carter's context had changed, and so had that of the Yankees. Late in the 2015 season, it appeared that Greg Bird might be the team's first baseman of the future, but he missed all of the 2016 with a shoulder injury. When he returned to action in the Arizona Fall League, Bird really struggled, batting .215 with one homer and 17 strikeouts in 65 at-bats. As the Cleveland Indians learned with Michael Brantley, no injury bears so much uncertainty for a position player -- for a hitter -- as a shoulder problem. For the Yankees, Bird is something of a mystery with spring training looming. Tyler Austin is a candidate to play first base after a nice showing late last season, but he's young, he has options, and he can be sent back to the minors.