After the recent chapter a lot of people have concluded that now that Inu/Neko have appointed Carrot as the next leader of Zou that this would eliminate any chances of Carrot joining Luffy’s crew.
However, I think the exact opposite is happening and it is now more likely than ever before and I’d like to sum up some of the hints we’ve seen in this chapter. (so no general arguments about how Carrot would be a good fit for the crew)
Carrot has been pretty much out of focus for dozens of chapters and really a large chunk of Wano. It would’ve been very easy to simply have her stick to the Minks and have her return back home after a brief send-off.
However, instead Oda has specifically dedicated some time of the recent chapter to show us what is in store for her with Inu/Neko appointing her to be the new leader of Zou, which comes completely out of nowhere and actually feels like a bit of a selfish request from the two.
I think Carrot’s reaction is very telling and very clearly shows her not to be thrilled about suddenly being put in charge. This is significant because in One Piece we really never had a reluctant leader like this, in fact One Piece, as a show, has always been about people trying to follow their dreams.
Carrot’s dream is not about becoming Zou’s leader, it was to see more of the world after spending most of her life in Zou.
Pedro’s Will is also specifically mentioned, but again, Pedro’s will wasn’t at all about becoming Zou’s leader. It was to see Luffy’s crew bring about the “dawn of a new world” and he was willing to die for that. Carrot knows that more than anyone else in that room, so returning to Zou while Luffy goes on to bring about this “dawn of a new world” goes against Pedro’s and her own wishes.
Wanda and Shishilian
A further point is made, by many readers but also Carrot herself, that she actually lacks the required strength to be an effective leader… which causes both Wanda and Shishilian to speak up and assure Carrot of their support.
Wanda is older and more experienced and took some charge during Jack’s invasion of Zou, while Shishilian is likewise older, more experienced and likely a better fighter. Shishilian explicitly says (in the scans) that Carrot can trust him and the other Musketeers to protect Zou for her.
This basically means that Zou will be in very capable hands even without Carrot around, because realistically what exactly would she be able to provide as a leader that Wanda and Shishilian aren’t already?
Loading the cargo
During the very same chapter, after a few days have passed, we are specifically shown that Luffy’s crew is bringing crates of cargo to the Sunny. Even more specifically we see Zoro carry a crate.
Now granted, you could argue that Oda simply wanted to show us characters doing stuff in the background while Luffy and the other Captains discuss their routes and Zoro would naturally be one of the crew members to help load up the ship.
However, Zoro would basically be the best member of the crew to intentionally or unintentionally smuggle Carrot onboard the ship. He wouldn’t think twice about a crate having an unusual weight or weight distribution, even if he did suspect Carrot of hiding in a crate he might be the one member of the crew who wouldn’t tell anyone out of respect of Carrot trying to do what she feels is right for her.
Plus Carrot sneaking out of her responsibilities does mimic what Inu and Neko did in their youths, so I think that if and when Inu/Neko realize that Carrot snuck away they would take it with an approving grin.
So all in all I do think that Carrot joining is still a very real possibility.
You may tell me that I am reaching for straws or am on dangerous amounts of copium. Also, feel free to let me know about any other hints I might have missed, or maybe even hints that make you think that Carrot not joining is a sealed deal by now. I really think the next chapter will actually be the decisive one.
Theory by Dionysus24779 (https://www.reddit.com/user/Dionysus24779)