Mariners to sign Hart, trade for Morrison

In a thin right-handed batter market, the Seattle Mariners have landed one of the better freely available options on Wednesday in former Milwaukee Brewer OF/1B Corey Hart.

The deal — reported by FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal as $5 million, escalating to $13 million with possible incentives — is a pretty nifty one and a tremendous get for the Mariners. Word had been that Hart was torn over choosing between the M’s and incumbent Brewers. Not only did Seattle win that battle, but they still got it done with only a one year commitment? Single year deals just don’t end horribly, even if the player fails to perform, thanks to the freeing of dollars at season’s end.

Certainly, Hart comes with risks. He missed the entirety of the 2013 season. He’s had both knees worked on. Expecting this player to show up and rake 30 dingers would be silly.

However, this is a guy who can flat out rake the baseball when healthy. His splits are quite interesting: While his career triple slash splits are better across the board hitting southpaws, the bulk of his career homers, doubles and triples have come against right-handed pitching. He’s a balanced hitter that does things well against guys throwing from either side.


Source: FanGraphs

The benefit for Hart signing with the Mariners, of course, is the designated hitter rule that Milwaukee isn’t afforded.

This allows the team to use Justin Smoak against right-handed pitching only if they choose, with Hart slotted in at DH. Then, when southpaws are on the bump, Smoak can have a day off and Hart would cover the first bag. I wouldn’t expect to see Hart in the outfield much — if at all — in 2014, but should he be healthy enough as the season moves on, it just gives the team that much more versatility.

And, as I type that, there is this news:

Logan Morrison, the sometimes potty-mouth-on-twitter but also very-giving-to-charity outfielder* and first baseman is probably the guy the Mariners now want to compliment Hart at first base, while adding a little outfield versatility. Being first-year aribtration eligible, Morrison has three years of club control remaining. This move could very well be a precursor to Smoak being dealt. It also almost certainly put the odds of bringing Kendrys Morales back at close to zero.

* Morrison is not a very good outfielder. So, here’s hoping the club still has plans on adding another player or two to patrol the grass.

If GM Jack Zduriencik is able to get something better than Carter Capps in return for Smoak, then this was a pretty nifty series of moves. If the plan is to keep all of these guys, though, we could be in for another season of dingers over defense, which would not be so exciting.

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Jason A. Churchill

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