Another “core” piece of the Brewers’ rebuilding effort of the first half of the last decade left Milwaukee on Wednesday when first basemen Corey Hart signed a one year deal with the Mariners that could pay him as much as $13 million in 2014 if he hits all of the incentives. The group that once also included Ben Sheets, Prince Fielder and JJ Hardy is now down to Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo and Rickie Weeks.
According to Tom Haudricourt, the Brewers never really got all that close:
This should make it more clear why Corey Hart took Seattle’s offer of $6 M salary and $7 M incentives. #Brewers offered $4 M and $2.5 M.
— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 11, 2013
Speaking on MLB Network at 5:30pm Central, Melvin basically said that the Mariners were able to outbid the Brewers because they can offer the opportunity to DH some days and give his two surgically repaired knees a rest. Obviously, the Brewers cannot do that and thus, have to accept a somewhat higher risk of injury and/or decline or plan on giving him many more days off. So they have to price him somewhat lower than an AL team might, and the Mariners were in a position to make that sort of offer. That certainly makes sense, and it’s good to see that the Brewers were, in fact, pricing the probability of re-injury and further missed time into their final offer. That’s a sign someone in the organization is at least crunching the numbers.
From Hart’s perspective, the deal offers him the opportunity to prove he’s healthy again and then potentially hit the open market next offseason. Hart will be playing half his games in Seattle next year, which figures to suppress some of the power numbers he’s put up over the years, though changes to the stadium layout there will ease some of that from what might have been the case a few years ago. One would hope, in this day and age, that all MLB teams would be smart enough to see through things like park effects, but moves to extremely pitcher-friendly parks have caused players to over-tinker in order to maintain their power, so Hart is going to have to be careful to avoid that.
A lot has been said, and will continue to be, regarding Hart’s repeated statements about being willing to accept less money to stay with the Brewers. Apparently the Mariners offered him enough more money than the Brewers that he felt the best decision was to make the switch. It’s generally bad form to criticize players for taking more money, because the sport is a business and teams (and fanbases) don’t generally show much loyalty to struggling players. Still, in this kind of a situation, Hart did repeatedly go out of his way to say he would be willing to accept less money to stay a Brewer, so it seems somewhat fair to at least ask how much of a discount was he really willing to take?
Shortly after the Hart signing, one of the Brewers fallback options also found himself a new Mariner when Logan Morrison was traded from Miami to Seattle. Just what the Mariners plan to do with Hart, Morrison and Justin Smoak is a problem more for Mariners blogs to wrestle with. It’s still worth noting that their surplus may lead to them putting Smoak on the market, which could certainly interest the Brewers down the line. Beyond them, Adam McCalvy tweeted that the Brewers do have “sincere interest” in former Tampa Bay Ray James Loney, but not to expect anything to happen on that front before the teams leave Orlando tomorrow. Unless the Mets lower their asking price for Ike Davis, that doesn’t look like much of a possibility either.
So where does that leave the Brewers at this point? Looks like it’s back to the drawing board for now. Of course, it probably wouldn’t be wise for Doug Melvin to leave 1B open too long, because super-agent Scott Boras happens to have the top man on the market in Kendrys Morales, and not only would the Brewers have to pay him Boras prices, but also would have to give up a draft pick to sign him. Given how the Kyle Lohse situation played out last spring, with owner Mark Attanasio reportedly overruling his GM to fill a position of need, Melvin needs to find a chair to sit in before the music winds down.
[Editor's Note: the original version of this post contained a, by then, out-of-date tweet about money involved in the deal. It was corrected once pointed out by Mr. Haudricourt]