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

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

26 Comments

  1. The Mariners lost LHP Brian Moran to Toronto and RHP Jose Valdivia to the Angels in the Rule 5 Draft. They did not select any players in the draft. Toronto then traded Moran to the Angels for some international bonus pool money.

    Mike Morse gets $6M on SF Giants deal for 2014. From: Jon Heyman at CBS Sports.

    Former Royals catcher Manny Pina has reached agreement on a minor-league deal with the Mariners. From: Bob Dutton at The News Tribune

    The Mariners are letting teams know that Jesus Montero, as well as Justin Smoak, are available in trades. From: Bob Nightengale at USAToday

    Also hearing Mariners plan for Hart might be OF and DH. He’s not necessarily slotted in at 1B despite knee problems. From: Jerry Crasnick at ESPN

    It works because they got right-handed bat that can play OF. Now they don’t have to panic for Choo. Just negotiate. Ryan Divish at the Seattle Times

    Key development: Mariners now unlikely to sign Shin-Soo Choo as a result of Corey Hart and Logan Morrison acquisitions. From: Jon Morosi at Fox Sports

    Executive on the Choo market: “I’m sure others want to get in, but Mariners and Rangers are the lead dogs” From: Joel Sherman at the New York Post

    I have heard the same as Bob Nightengale. One GM says he was told in talks that Shin-Soo Choo would cost $140 million over 7 years. From: Mark Feinsand at the New York Daily News

    GM: “Just cannot see Kendrys Morales signing until after the draft” From: Peter Gammons at Gammons Daily

  2. Yeah, I think you’re right.

    They should get the best young OFer they can for Franklin, perhaps packaged with someone like Ramirez. Plus, resigning Guti makes a ton of sense right now.

    SP: Tanaka is option A, B, and C. If he isn’t available, then Garza or Jimenez.

    RP: Chris Perez, Joel Hanrahan, John Axford, Carlos Marmol, Jesse Crain and Joba Chamberlain would all be interesting acquisitions. They could add 2 or more of those guys. Given the volatility of relievers, that makes more sense to me than spending more on someone like Grant Balfour. Fernando Rodney on a 1-2 year deal would work too.

    Lottery tickets: Tyler Colvin, Daniel Hudson, Mark Mulder, Gavin Floyd, Mike Pelfrey

  3. I’m not sure what the plan is, but I still expect to see a couple more bats, hopefully outfielders, by way of signing or trade. I expect two more starting pitchers, late inning reliever, and another catcher. That is what I believe the M’s need, that is what I expect the M’s to deliver to their fans, and, well, that will do until spring training.

  4. Morrison is a career .289 Vs. LHP..

    However even with JackZ saying Smoak is the primary 1B player. I can see Smoak on the block along with Ackley and Franklin for the right deal…. Say D. Murphy from the NYM he can play LF.

  5. It’s been said Toronto has shopped Rasmus to teams but are looking for a starting pitcher in return. I don’t see the M’s trading Iwakuma unless they get a monster return and are able to get another number 2 caliber pitcher into the fold (they’re already looking for one).
    I’ve pushed for Rasmus previously, and I’d love to see him roaming Safeco, he’s very underrated defensively, but if the Blue Jays need pitching back in a deal then I don’t think the M’s will may able to match up. The Jays do need a second basemen and the M’s have several so…

  6. Considering how the market is shaping up, if he was really available at a reasonable asking price, there would be tons of rumors about potential bidders. Every player is technically available, but that doesn’t mean that Toronto is actively involved.

  7. I doubt Smoak is traded. They basically have three guys for 1B and DH. All three have pretty serious health and talent question marks surrounding them. How many days this season will all three be healthy and productive at the same time? 20? 30?

    On the rare occasions that all three are full strength then, yeah, maybe Hart plays some outfield. I just don’t see that happening all that much.

    As far as roster construction goes, if you have Ackley as one of your regular outfielders (which I endorse to limited extent) he’s essentially functioning as your emergency back up infielder. That allows the team to carry a bench of LoMo, Bloomy, a catcher, and a 4th outfielder like Gutierrez.

    Speaking of catchers, if the team adds a decent option like Kurt Suzuki, it would allow them to use Zunino as a DH vs LHP and sit both LoMo and Smoaky at the same time.

  8. If what was seen on Hart’s video translates OK into putting his whole body into a swing, then great. I’m mostly concerned about his hitting, and he was being marketed as a first baseman… I’d rather see them use him in whatever ways maximize the addition of his hitting to the lineup and minimize the chances of him ending up on the DL. If he stays healthy I bet he’ll be very good! If not, it was just money and worth a try (and we didn’t have to give up any kids to get him.

    Morrison and Smoak are basically the same player in a number of ways. I consider Morrison a sideways move rather than a roster upgrade. I like his potential, but in that regard I don’t think he’s much different than some other guys we have, like Smoak and Ackley. I hope he will prove he is more than just an interchangeable part. I’d love to see him break out while he’s with us… and it could happen.

    With some of the bigger fish still in play, I’m having a hard time getting too excited about these two moves today, but I’m pleased that they added (if healthy) someone who could do a decent job hitting behind Cano. And maybe Morrison can unlock some of his talents. In the meantime, I want to see them continue trying to get some more hitters and a starting pitcher, as well as some bullpen help.

  9. Pretty much eliminates Seattle from the Kendry Morales sweetstakes. Raul looks like he’s going to the Angels. So currently, there is some room on the roster, especially with Willie B being able to be a super-utility guy.

    They do need a righthanded hitter to plug into the line-up. Resigning Guit as the forth outfielder wouldn’t be horrible.

  10. Rasmus is available for a young controlable pitcher. They also need a 2B badly so Franklin/? Rasmus would fit perfect here and can bat up and down the lineup with power and speed. We need that type of defense if they are thinking of putting Hart or Morrison in the OF. Colby can flat out cover CF- GET HIM

  11. Well word is Hart will be primarily in right field. Hart actually performed slightly better over his career defensively in the OF vs 1B. The biggest issue for playing in the OF is his knees, but I guess Hart made a video showing how well his legs are after his rehabilitation and it was pretty impressive. So maybe he can be adequate in the OF. If that is the case then you have Smoak and Morrison as your 1B and DH. Hart also tweeted that he expects to play RF. So there is that. I still think they need an OF and will acquire one via trade for Franklin.

    I could see Rasmus or Gardner being a candidate. Rasmus has been make available according to sources at least that is what I’m reading from the internet and hearing from baseball talk shows. He only has one more year on his contract and will be the best position player on the FA market next year in a very very down free agent market. So I’m sure he will test the market. I think he could be very good in Seattle.

  12. Again, depth is good!

    It’s not like Smoak is an established player. Ditto for Morrison. And Hart didn’t play much at all last season, with the type of injury that can be career threatening.

    This makes sense from the perspective of hedging bets. You can’t (or shouldn’t) pencil any of these guys into the lineup for 700PAs and not expect to be disappointed.

  13. oh, I should mention that add redundant players like this isn’t necessarily bad.

    Hart and Morrison have had trouble staying of the field. Smoak and Morrison both have failed to show they are solid big league players, but have some upside. Basically, this makes a ton of sense in terms of building depth: if Hart’s knees are screwed, they’ve got two backup options. If Smoak continues to play like he has in the past, Hart or Morrison can replace him. And having a rotation will help keep them healthy. Not too shabby.

    It would still be nice if they got another guy who can destroy lefties for the bench, though.

    Basically, the quality of these moves is negatively correlated with how often Morrison plays OF.

  14. They are VERY comparable players.

    Both are former top prospects.

    Both are the same age, and have never really lived up to their potential.

    Both have showed glimpses of their ability to produce offensively.

    Both are limited to DH/1B (or at least should be).

    Both are best against RH pitching, and aren’t good options for a platoon (at least together).

  15. definitely a non-roster invitee option, imo

  16. How about Kevin Youkilis in the same role as RHPH, DH, 1B? He doesn’t have the raw power, but draws walks and is even better than Morse versus LHPs. He’d be a great platoon guy with a chance to have a bounce-back season.

  17. Exactly, I don’t understand this on face value. I have to think this is part of a bigger plan. Hart could be limited to part time OF/DH or even 1B. I’m not sure we even have an outfielder yet. Now if we resign Morales and trade Franklin for Billy Butler and bring back Ibanez then I’ll know for sure that JZ forget to take his meds. Really, Smoak or Morrison needs to be packaged and we need some bonafide outfielders. I guess I’ll find out in due course.

  18. Apparently, you conclude that his 2013 is all that we can expect from him, and completely ignoring his 2010-2012 numbers. Yes, this past season is similar to Smoak, but his previous three seasons, his splits were much better than Smoak’s.

    His defense in the outfield is a concern, but your comments about him being another Smoak are not completely accurate. If he repeats 2013, yes. If he produces more like 2010-2013, he’s not.

  19. Why would they do that? Why trade a switch hitting DH/1B for another switch hitting DH/1B who has less defensive versatility, will cost way more, and will cause them to lose a draft pick?

  20. Hell Yeah!

    Love the Hart signing. He was one of the two players (along with Tanaka) that I really hoped the M’s would pursue. I’m actually kinda bummed they didn’t get an option or second year. I have a feeling he’ll be a bargain. Great addition.

    I’m a little less enthusiastic about the Morrison addition. He’s a pretty good change of scenery type, and the cost isn’t prohibitive. But what are they going to do now in terms of playing time?

    Right now, we have three DH/1B types in Morrison, Smoak, and Hart as pretty redundant players (four if you count Montero). I think all are potentially good players, and with Smoak and Morrison both being guys with untapped potential, Hart a good player with health questions, and Montero obviously needing more work by still young and talented. Depth is good.

    However, I’m concerned about how they are going to use these guys. The M’s showed last year that they are willing to play guys who have negative defensive value for HRs and RBI. I’m concerned that they will repeat old errors.

    That said, if these guys are used properly, these are great additions.

  21. What about now resigning Michael Morse?
    (Ducks)
    This, of course, is provided the Ms are able to flip Smoak for something of even moderate value. If they do this, and sign Morse to something in the 1/4 range, I wouldn’t hate it…

    vs RHP
    1B- Morrison
    DH- Hart

    vs LHP
    1B- Hart
    DH- Morse

    Ok, fire away…

  22. Do you have some insight as to Rasmus being available, that hasn’t been circulating on the net? I would love to have him in CF, but why would Toronto want to trade him? Deals only work when two sides can agree on a deal.

  23. Wrong roto. Morrison and Smoak are the same hitters and both are terrible against LHP. They do not compliment each other and cannot be used as a platoon.

    This either means that Smoak or Morrison are headed out the door or Morrison will end up in the OF, which would be a HUGE mistake, he is one of the worst OF defensively in the game.

  24. Ok now trade for Rasmus and we got something. I would rathere trade for Rasmus and extend him then sign Choo. Gotta have solid D up the middle

  25. Morrison has a better track record than Thames no way to compair the 2. Hart becomes the DH and Morrison and Smoak split 1B duties Morrsion vs LHP and Smoak vs RHP if I remember right doing this on my phone. That is how there bats play out. Now leaves the OF holes the M’s have and a back up Catcher. The M’s should go cost control on the SP and spend on the remaining bats. Colon and done.

  26. Like both players, but can’t help but think Capps for Morrison could turn out like Delabar for Thames. Capps and Morrison are both better players than the other two, but still very likely. Losing Capps hurts less due to the presence of Carson Smith, Leone and Pryor.

    Hope the Mariners trade Smoak for a reliever, re-sign Morales, and swing Morales, Morrison and Hart between 1B and DH (with the occasional spot starts in the OF for Morrison and Hart).

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