After missing the entire season while recovering from surgery on both of his knees, Corey Hart has chosen to leave the Brewers and join the new-look Mariners, landing a one-year deal with Seattle, according to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman.
Hart, who has played the majority of his nine-year career in the outfield, will likely spend the bulk of his time in a first base/designated hitter role while in Seattle, but a shaky outfield currently consisting of Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders and Abraham Almonte could lead to some time in the outfield.
**Update: The Mariners have since traded right-hander Carter Capps for first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison. So one of Hart or Morrison will be in the outfield. Woof.
According to Heyman, Hart is expected to hit behind Robinson Cano, whom the Mariners inked to the third-highest contract in MLB history prior to the Winter Meetings.
From 2010-2012, Hart averaged 29 home runs and recorded a .857 OPS; only 17 players have hit more home runs over that time, and only 23 players have a better OPS. Interestingly, the man just ahead of Hart in OPS, free-agent outfielder Michael Morse, was one-and-done in Seattle this season after battling wrist injuries.
Moving from Milwaukee to Seattle is a signficant downgrade offensively. Dan Szymborski has already ran his ZiPS projections with Hart's change of scenery, and it's not pretty:
Corey Hart ZiPS in Seattle - 246/307/421, 18 HR, 52 RBI, 106 OPS+, 1.6 WAR in 120 games in right.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 11, 2013
In Milwaukee - 269/328/488, 23 HR, 69 RBI, 117 OPS, 2.2 WAR in 120 G. Honestly, not the best choice for a 1-year comeback deal.— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) December 11, 2013
It does seem odd that Hart chose the Mariners over the Brewers on a one-year deal, as a better bet for offensive production is more appealing in Milwaukee. But, presumably, money talks.
Hart can hit both right-handed and left-handed pitching well, but the biggest drop-off will be in the power numbers. According to ESPN Park Factors, Miller Park increased home run production by almost 26 percent while Safeco decreased home run production by about 11 percent. If Hart's knees hold up, I think 25 home runs is still a possibility, but I'm not willing to count on the nearly 30 he averaged from 2010-2012. He also shouldn't be counted on to be a source of steals, given his recent injury history.
Hart's batting average has consistently been in the .270-.285 range since 2010, but his home and away numbers have been very different. Away from Miller Park, Hart has hit .262/.316/.446, compared to .291/.352/.539 in Milwaukee. I'm not expecting Hart's batting average to all of a sudden rebound in Safeco.
The move to Seattle should keep Hart safely outside of the top-40 outfielders. Like it does with Cano, the move decreases Hart's fantasy value.
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