Mariners Sign Corey Hart; I Say Good Things About Mariners

Dave · December 11, 2013 at 11:59 am · Filed Under Mariners 

In my off-season plan post from a few months back, I suggested that the Mariners sign Corey Hart to a one year contract to DH and play some first base. In explaining the proposal, I wrote this:

Speaking of thump against lefties, that brings us to Corey Hart. He’s coming off two knee surgeries, and spent all of 2013 on the disabled list, so while he’s said he wants to return to Milwaukee, spending a season as a DH and proving he can stay healthy is probably a better long term plan. Jack drafted Hart back in 2000 and clearly knows him well, and Hart would fit in well as a cheaper Kendrys Morales replacement. If he proves healthy enough to play the field, that gives you another option at first base in case Smoak doesn’t hit, and maybe he even gets a little time in the outfield, though I’d call that unlikely given his health issues. He’s a gamble, certainly, but the right-handed power is legitimate, and the Mariners could be a nice landing spot for Hart to prove that he’s ready to be an everyday player again.

Hart is, in some ways, not that different of a gamble that Michael Morse was a year ago. He’s the same type of hitter as Morse, or often-mentioned target Nelson Cruz, or the recently traded Mark Trumbo; an aggressive power hitter with mediocre contact rates who doesn’t really work the count. These guys are all pretty similar in terms of offensive value. To wit, here are their numbers from the last three seasons.

Mark Trumbo 1837 6% 25% 0.221 0.287 0.251 0.300 0.473 0.331 112
Corey Hart 1173 8% 23% 0.231 0.320 0.277 0.344 0.509 0.367 130
Nelson Cruz 1611 7% 23% 0.226 0.295 0.263 0.319 0.489 0.348 114
Michael Morse 1342 5% 23% 0.205 0.320 0.277 0.325 0.481 0.348 119

These guys are all basically the same kind of hitter, with the variation between them mostly being about health and defensive ability. Trumbo is probably the most valuable of the group, since he’s the youngest and healthiest, but he also just cost the Diamondbacks two pretty valuable trade chips. Cruz is asking for $75 million. The Mariners weren’t going back to the Michael Morse well after seeing that fail last year, but they basically found another version of the same skillset, which is clearly a skillset they like a lot.

This time, though, they’re getting this skillset for a low cost. Because of Hart’s health issues, he’s coming on a one year deal. While we don’t know the terms yet, a base salary around $10 million is probably a good bet, given that the Mariners had to outbid the Brewers and Hart suggested he’d take a discount to stay there. Maybe it will be $8 million or $12 million, but it is likely to be something in that range. Essentially, it’s like taking on Morse’s contract last winter, only doing so without giving up anything in return.

And, hopefully, Hart won’t be forced into the outfield like Morse was. The Mariners should see him as a DH, or potentially a first baseman if Justin Smoak doesn’t hit again. He wasn’t a terrible defender before the knees gave out, but he was never an asset with the glove and now he’s coming off surgeries on both knees. He turns 32 in March. It’s time to stop asking him to run around. Just let him hit, and if he feels really good, let him play some first base.

If the M’s use him that way, Hart could be a reasonably productive DH, probably matching what the team got from Kendrys Morales last year. Rather than overpaying to re-sign Morales, they get a right-handed power hitter that comes with no long term attachment. This is a much better move than re-signing Morales; the key, though, is to not also re-sign Morales and try to fit them both onto the same team by sticking Hart in the outfield. They tried that last year. They should not try that again.

For now, though, nice job by the front office to identify perhaps the best value source of the most overpriced asset on the market this winter. This is better than trading for Matt Kemp or Mark Trumbo, signing Nelson Cruz, or re-signing Kendrys Morales. There’s a good chance that Hart can give the Mariners most of what those guys would have, just without any of the long term costs of acquiring the bigger name.


29 Responses to “Mariners Sign Corey Hart; I Say Good Things About Mariners”

  1. californiamariner on December 11th, 2013 12:05 pm

    Love this move. But then they acquire Logan Morrison? What do you think of that Dave? Are they going to try to put guys in the outfield again that don’t belong out there?

  2. GarForever on December 11th, 2013 12:06 pm

    Dave, liked you rationale then, still like it now. How do you feel about Logan Morrison? I looked at his peripherals on Fangraphs, and aside from an inflated IFF% and lower FB%, I couldn’t see what might explain the decline in his slash line, but I;m sure your trained eye might help explain it. Is he a decent bounceback candidate? Was Capps fair value or an overpay?

  3. nickwest1976 on December 11th, 2013 12:08 pm

    Interesting on Logan Morrison. Have to imagine the M’s see him playing a corner OF spot. Wonder if the M’s are in on Choo?

    Love the Hart signing. Great move.

  4. nickwest1976 on December 11th, 2013 12:09 pm

    Or maybe this now puts Smoak’s future with the M’s in doubt?

  5. GarForever on December 11th, 2013 12:11 pm

    If they go get Choo as well, and sign Gutierrez as a fourth outfielder, I have to think Ackley’s days are numbered as a Mariner. I would rather they keep him around as a potential Zobrist type, but with WFB back int he fold I’m not sure where he’ll fit on the roster.

  6. ChrisFB on December 11th, 2013 12:13 pm

    If this team weren’t so insistent on running DHs out to play corner outfield positions, I’d say that getting Hart and LoMo was basically hanging a “for sale” sign on Smoak. Unless they think LoMo is expendable in spring training, or wanted depth in case Hart’s knees aren’t 100%, or something.

    Not too sad about the price, though. Capps seems a nice fellow but lowest WAR among all M’s 2013 relievers with 40 IP or more, xFIP of 3.56 only better than Medina or Bartender. Good luck to him.

  7. thedude1987 on December 11th, 2013 12:13 pm

    i expect a big trade. we have a lot of pieces that we do not know how they fit on this roster. maybe for some competition?

  8. californiamariner on December 11th, 2013 12:21 pm

    I don’t want them to overpay for Choo, but man a lineup with Hart, Choo, and Cano all added to it would be nice to see.

    I think Capps had a lot of potential , but I’m not too upset with losing him. I just really hope they don’t decide to play Hart or Morrison in the outfield.

  9. GarForever on December 11th, 2013 12:23 pm

    I just did a back-of-the-envelope sketch, and actually, if they plan on a 1B/DH platoon rotation of Smoak/Morrison/Hart they would have room for Ackley.

  10. kinickers77 on December 11th, 2013 12:24 pm

    I agree with everything you said Dave, except about Matt Kemp. He is way better than the list of other guys you were talking about and, in my opinion, worth trading for.

  11. hailcom on December 11th, 2013 12:31 pm

    I’m very happy with this move. Agree with most of what you say, Dave, except I think Morse does not belong on the list of four as someone of comparable value. Even taking into account his good years, he was averaging .5 WAR per fangraphs over the last five years. The other three (throwing out 2013 for Hart) were mid-2s avg. Big difference to me. The Steamer and Oliver projections are a little better for Morse, coming in at .9/1.3, but still 1 WAR below the other three. And when you take out Morse, this 1 year signing is compared to Cruz’s incredible demands and the price in players paid for Trumbo. As a deal, this is a good value. LoMo seems an odd other shoe to drop, but who knows if that may be a part of a larger deal to come…

  12. rth1986 on December 11th, 2013 12:39 pm

    I hope the M’s trade Smoak for a reliever, re-sign Morales, and split Hart/Morales/Morrison between 1B and DH. Hart and Morrison could spot in the OF, but the team still needs two more real outfielders.

  13. GarForever on December 11th, 2013 12:46 pm

    Never mind, Dave. Just read your post at Fangraphs. From your keyboard to God’s ears…

  14. Westside guy on December 11th, 2013 1:01 pm

    As long as we don’t sign three more of him this time around, I think it’s a great move.

    But, as with everything else this org does – I’ll wait and see what the final roster looks like before praising Zduriencik. Last off season he just kept signing “Corey Hart” over and over and over… 😉

  15. zak24 on December 11th, 2013 1:02 pm

    look at dave playing nice. this blog is SO MUCH BETTER when it’s objective. keep it up.

  16. jrdo410 on December 11th, 2013 1:03 pm

    $5 mil base salary, $8 mil incentives, got to like that.

  17. Westside guy on December 11th, 2013 1:09 pm

    “Objective” does not mean one has to only say positive things about the Mariners. They’ve done a lot of stuff worthy of criticism over the past decade – calling them on it does not mean one isn’t being objective.

  18. Jay R. on December 11th, 2013 1:14 pm

    Leave it to the Mariners to sign a guy with only 2 hits in his career. And those were in the 80s!

    Wait, what?

  19. deadmanonleave on December 11th, 2013 1:25 pm

    I thought Logan’s Run was in 1976…..I’ll get my coat….

  20. californiamariner on December 11th, 2013 1:48 pm

    I just noticed that Logan Morrison’s twitter bio describes himself as “Miami Marlins LF”. I can’t help but think the Mariners are going to stick him in the outfield.

  21. leftfield limey on December 11th, 2013 1:57 pm

    Love it when the Mariners channel a bit of Dave. Neutral on LoMo but hoping they worked out they can’t run out Long John Silver lookalikes in the outfield. No Cruz? No Morales? Gotta be hoping that’s the plan.

  22. Eastside Suds on December 11th, 2013 1:59 pm

    Gotta love the Hart move. Next to Mike Napoli, he was the next best prominent power guy available at 1B. I had hoped on Napoli, but that was wishful thinking. Hart will be a great addition. .344 OBP is not bad at all for a slugger and he comes at a great price with LOTS of incentives. Well done FO!! It’s starting to come together.

    Along with the Morrison pickup, I have to say the best piece of this trade is not having to watch Carter Capps load the bases or give up a bases loaded triple in the 8th. I wish him well, but enough was enough.

    Gotta think (nay….wish) that the Mariners have not solved any outfield issue. Choo would cost money, but not cost talent. Kemp would cost both, but a healthy Kemp is better than Choo, in my estimation.

    Let’s also hope that Cruz is off the table. We do NOT need another slow guy in the lineup. Especially anywhere in the OF. And, Kendrys Morales can now go play somewhere else. We don’t need him. The draft pick will be outstanding though!!! Next few days should be interesting. It’s great actually seeing positive signs!!

  23. pgreyy on December 11th, 2013 2:08 pm

    Guess this means that they won’t resign Raul now?

    (Or will this be another year with four DH/1B/PLEASE DON’T PUT THEM IN THE OUTFIELD types?)

  24. Adam S on December 11th, 2013 3:20 pm

    Mentioned in passing, but one plus of this deal is it almost certainly keeps them from throwing 3/40 at Morales and as noted above makes signing Ibanez unlikely as well.

    That’s win, win, win.

  25. Rockstar on December 11th, 2013 4:16 pm

    Another plus that’s only been mentioned in passing, if Hart does have a nice bounceback year, the M’s could make the qualifying offer at the end of next season. There’s nice upside there, as they would be in the best position to re-sign him or get an extra pick. Worst case scenario, he totally bottoms out and the M’s are only out the $5-6 base salary for this coming season. Great move Z!

  26. Rockstar on December 11th, 2013 4:22 pm

    Also exciting/terrifying is the shear volume of tradable assets the M’s have. Franklin and/or Ackley should be worth something. Smoak, Maurer, and to a much lesser extent Montero migth get a little something in return. And though the bullpen did not pan out so well last year, the M’s are deep in young bullpen arms. This is all beside the fact that the M’s should/could have payroll flexibility left to get one or two more good pieces. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the offseason plays out.

  27. Jamison_M on December 11th, 2013 5:32 pm

    Big plus: not re-signing Morales means he hopefully signs somewhere else, netting us a nice draft pick.

  28. Longgeorge1 on December 11th, 2013 5:54 pm

    Individually nice pieces, but it looks like another crowd at 1b/dh or oh my God what is that in left.

  29. sawsatch on December 20th, 2013 1:38 pm

    We need to add two more first basemen.

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