Hart Could Take Discount & End Brewers’ Misery at 1B | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

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.

# Season Team WAR
1 1920 Athletics -4.3
2 2013 Brewers -4.2
3 1970 White Sox -3.8
4 1968 Red Sox -3.7
5 1947 Phillies -3.6

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.

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Comments

Tell us what do you think.

  1. Eugene Mannarino says: September 19, 2013

    If he checks out why not

  2. Jason says: September 19, 2013

    I’d like to see him back if the contract is incentive laden. $2-3 million base with incentives that can push it to $5-8 million. That would be very beneficial to both sides.

    • Nicholas Zettel says: September 19, 2013

      Unfortunately, the Brewers couldn’t weigh the contract that heavily with incentives. However, even $5 million to $8 million would be a steal.

      In fact, I was thinking, would offering him anything near the Qualifying Offer make sense? If Hart succeeds in 2014, would a low 2014 salary damage the chances of the Brewers successfully receiving compensation if he signs elsewhere?

      My feeling is that keeping his salary higher would help the club potentially gain a draft pick from his services.

      • Vin B says: September 20, 2013

        I don’t think a qualifying offer can be incentive laden. So offering him $14 Million for the year after coming off two knee surgeries would not be prudent.

      • Jason says: September 20, 2013

        “Unfortunately, the Brewers couldn’t weigh the contract that heavily with incentives. However, even $5 million to $8 million would be a steal.”

        Why not? Last year Travis Hafner signed a deal with the Yankees for $2mil. with incentives for up to another $4mil. based upon plate appearances. That would put Hafner’s contract in the ballpark of what I suggested.

        To Vin: If the Brewers did this, it would most likely be during their exclusive rights period after the season, so a qualifying offer is moot.

  3. Matty Plotkin says: September 19, 2013

    i sure hope so! this would be of a great comfort.

  4. david says: September 20, 2013

    It makes way too much sense to ever happen.

  5. Vin B says: September 20, 2013

    I wonder how much of this is “home town discount” or really just looking for a pillow contract after a missed season.

    There are 5 players under the age of 25 fighting for this job: Juan Francisco (who is going to winter ball to work out his defense and approach), Sean Halton, Mat Gamel, Taylor Green and Hunter Morris.

    Since the Brewers are not close to contending, it makes all the sense in the world to take a shot at one of the younger guys and save the money for later.

    • Big Lance says: September 20, 2013

      I agree with Vin B- Time to part ways if they can. Need to start rebuilding. Hart is a great guy but they need to build back up and save the money. I know the Mkt demand for Hart wont be much

      • dbug says: September 20, 2013

        I agree. If it’s $1.5M with incentives, I’m buying. If its $5M with incentives, I’m passing.

  6. Vin B says: September 20, 2013

    Regarding Juan Francisco: I still believe in his potential and he’d be a great platoon partner with Sean Halton.

    It’s easy to look at his strike outs and WAR and dismiss him but he has wRC+ of 99 (meaning league average) despite having a .229 batting average. His negative WAR value comes from his atrocious -34.7 UZR/150. Keep in mind that he hadn’t played a lick of 1B before coming to Milwaukee.

  7. dbug says: September 20, 2013

    Whenever 1B is discussed, Halton is just kind of dismissed as AAAA player or reserve. That might be the case, but what exactly is it about his skills that makes people draw that conclusion? He seemed to post decent stats in the minors and he as been a better than replacement level player so far in the Majors. Why is he not even considered an option? Anyone have any real insight?

    • Cecil Cooper's Love Child says: September 20, 2013

      Big guy, but no history of big power. He has always performed at a RC+ of 115. If we are not planning on contending, then a platoon of Francisco/Gamel and Halton will be the likely scenario.

      If we plan on contending, Hart will be back. Plan on Hart at 1B next year with a couple of young guys waiting at AAA. The balance will be released.

      • dbug says: September 20, 2013

        Based on that, isn’t he an above average first baseman? He probably won’t ever hit 30 homeruns, but is that the only knock on him? A Mark Grace type of player isn’t so bad. He maybe has a little more power, but a smaller OBP. With any luck maybe you get Hart-average production at a Halton price for one year.

    • Vin B says: September 20, 2013

      That’s a great question. IMHO:
      1) Halton does not have a strong hit or power tool that you look for in a 1B prospect. He looks relatively polished and will likely reach his ceiling (.270 hitter with 15-18 HRs) pretty quickly.

      2) 1B gets a large positional downgrade since almost anyone can learn how to play it. According to fangraphs, 1B gets a -12.5 runs subtracted (when calculating WAR). Compare that to +3.5 for 3B and -17.5 for DH. Meaning, playing 1B is a lot closer to being a DH than a 3B.

      3) While Halton’s glove is good, it’s not great and will likely lead to a negative value. Consider that even a good fielding 1B like Paul Goldschmidt has a negative value in dWAR while having a +4.0 UZR/150.

    • Ross B says: September 20, 2013

      Always old for his level. Never mashed until he got the the PCL, which is a huge offensive environment, and even there had basically no HR power for his spot. Wasn’t considered an elite defensive first baseman. Tough for a guy like that to be considered much of a prospect.

      And we are talking about 87 PA right now and he has hit HR at twice the rate of his best MiLB season and about 3.5x as his entire career. Sure Space Coast and TWC Field aren’t great HR parks, but this power spike is probably no more sustainable than Yuni B’s April one was.

      • dbug says: September 20, 2013

        I know this will sound like an insane comparison, and he is almost certainly the exception to the rule, but wasn’t David Ortiz this kind of player early on, without the defense? He didn’t really get a lot of playing time in the majors until his mid 20′s and never hit more than 20 home runs until he was 27 years old. Not saying Halton is Papi, but I really don’t want the Brewers to be the Twins in that comparison.

        • Ross B says: September 23, 2013

          From what I understand, the Twins had Ortiz’s approach all sorts of screwed up. They tried having him, an obvious power/pull hitter, spraying the ball to all fields. Once he got to Boston they told him to swing for the fences. That is a massive difference.

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