Mariners Sign Corey Hart; I Say Good Things About Mariners
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.
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.