Coming into this offseason, both the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers had holes at first base. With two moves in the same hour — signing Corey Hart to a one-year deal and trading for Logan Morrison — the Mariners seem to have filled their needs while leaving the Brewers to scramble on to Plan C.
Hart missed all of 2013 after having surgery on both of his knees, but that didn't stop him from being one of the more attractive buy-low options on the free agent market. Hart provides a cheaper alternative to the Mariners than bringing back Kendrys Morales, and could allow them to allocate some more funds elsewhere. Jack Zduriencik's familiarity with Hart can't hurt, either — Zduriencik drafted Hart in the 11th round in 2000 while serving as the Brewers' scouting director.
Hart doesn't come without his risks — 6'6" 32-year-olds with a history of knee problems don't tend to age well — but he still figures to be a solid buy-low gamble. Hart experienced a power spike in 2010, and since then has hit .279/.343/.514. His home run numbers will likely dip moving from Miller Park to Safeco Field, but he's always had good gap power that should still yield plenty of extra-base hits.
It appears the Brewers were reluctant to make any sort of significant guarantee to Hart, which is understandable after what they went through with him over the past year. Hart injured his right knee in offseason workouts last January, and after surgery was expected to miss 3-4 months. Then he was expected back in May. Then it was late June. Then it was after the All-Star break. Then Hart injured his *left* knee while doing rehab work on the right knee, and was officially declared out for the season. The Brewers spent $10 million on Hart last season and never saw him take a swing, while his replacements at first base combined for a nearly-historically-bad year.
Hart said earlier this offseason that he was willing to return to Milwaukee on a hometown discount, saying he felt bad about not being able to contribute while making that kind of money for the small-market Brewers. But in the end, guaranteed money talks, and Hart will reportedly getting $5 million from Seattle along with an additional $8 million or so in incentives.
The Brewers had been active in trade talks for Morrison and New York's Ike Davis just in case Hart did spur them, but now with Morrison unavailable, too, they'll have to find another plan. They could go back to talking trade with the Mets, or go the free agent route — James Loney's agent might've known something was up, as he contacted Doug Melvin Tuesday. It seems unlikely, though, that the Brewers would be willing to give Loney the years and salary he's desiring.
Morrison's fate in Miami was sealed when the Marlins signed Garrett Jones to a two-year deal. Online antics aside, Morrison has been a disappointment on the field, struggling with knee injuries and inconsistent performance. That would explain the seemingly underwhelming return for him, right handed reliever Carter Capps. Morrison is still just 26, though, so some hope remains for a true breakout from the former top prospect. He seems likely to return to left field in Seattle, leaving Hart at first.