At this point, Brewers fans pretty much scoff at the idea of a hometown discount. Some harbored hope that CC Sabathia, Prince Fielder or Zack Greinke would look back fondly on their time in Milwaukee and consider spurning larger offers on the free agent market to sign with the Brewers. That didn’t occur, but it’s not completely foreign throughout the league. A.J. Burnett recently said he would only sign with Pittsburgh this offseason. Hiroki Kuroda will only continue playing if it’s in New York.
Although he didn’t say he wouldn’t sign anywhere but Milwaukee, first baseman Corey Hart recently told reporters that he’d be willing to accept a discount to remain in a Brewers uniform. He said:
“I told them I would be very generous to stay here. I wouldn’t sit there and ask for anything outlandish. I’d definitely take a discount to stay here because I think I owe it to them to stay here and be a cheaper player.
“Nobody wants to play for free but I basically sat there and watched all season. I owe it to them and the fans to come back at a cheaper price.”
The Brewers will likely be quite interested in signing Hart on a one-year deal for 2014. It obviously depends on the money, but a one-year deal would allow Hart to re-establish his value and prepare him for a potential multi-year deal prior to the 2015 season. It would also mercifully give the Brewers a competent option at first base. The team’s first basemen have compiled a putrid -4.2 WAR on the year and have the opportunity to be historically bad.
With 10 games left in the season, Milwaukee owns the second-worst team mark at first base for WAR in a single season. As in … ever.
Sean Halton and his +0.2 WAR are fighting to counterbalance an entire season of futility, but the damage has already been done. Alex Gonalzez (-1.1 WAR), Juan Francisco (-1.1 WAR) and Yuniesky Betancourt (-1.7 WAR) have been tremendous at being terrible, and the trio may put the 2013 Brewers on the map as having the worst collection of first basemen in the history of the game. We all understood the Brewers haven’t gotten production from first base, but I’m not sure any of us understood the extent of the damage.
That’s why Corey Hart is such an attractive option for 2014, despite being 31 years old and coming off two knee surgeries. He owns a career .354 wOBA. That’s 81-points higher than the Brewers’ collective wOBA at first base this season, which would be rather silly if it weren’t so gut-wrenchingly depressing to think about. I mean, there are only four qualified players with a lower wOBA than what the Brewers’ averaged at first base! They would’ve statistically been better off having the equivalent of Starlin Castro, who’s currently hitting .242/.283/.341, play the position all year.
So, unless the organization is prepared to hand the everyday position to Hunter Morris or transition Aramis Ramirez to the opposite infield corner, the Brewers will surely be interested in bringing back Corey Hart on a reduced deal. His physical skills are surely declining. Fortunately, though, Hart could have the worst offensive season of his career (.325 wOBA in 2008) and still be dramatically better than what the club has suffered through this year.
Assuming the deal is somewhere in the $5-7M range (Hart made $10M this season), he would present the Brewers’ with some real upside and a potential asset to deal at the trade deadline if the club fails to compete again next season. He was a two-win player for the club in 2012 and launched 30 home runs. A similar performance would quite literally represent a six-win differential between 2013 and 2014 at first base for the Brewers.
And that’s quite noteworthy.