The Mariners did something smart, and they got a terrific deal while doing so. Jon Heyman reports that Corey Hart is shipping out west for Seattle, leaving Milwaukee to join the Mariners on a one-year deal, where he'll likely bat behind Robinson Cano. No contract terms have been released yet, though Bob Nightengale said that the Brewers only offered base salary with incentives up to $8 million.
Hart is at least one of the right-handed bats the Mariners desperately coveted, and he'll slide right into 1B/DH, though it's yet to be seen if the Mariners plan on using him in the outfield, where he's posted average numbers in recent years in right field. In order to maximize his health, it isn't ideal.
Hart, 32 on opening day, is coming off surgeries on both knees and would have scored a major free-agent deal if not for his red flags. We endorsed signing him in our off-season plan, and had him penciled in at two years, $16 million. I said earlier that I was even willing to toss in a third year vesting option, so getting Hart on such a low-risk deal is magnificent.
As I previously noted, Hart crushes lefties but also hits RHP very well, posting wRC+ of 119, 122, and 120 from 2010-2012 against righties. He's a no doubt every-day player, and he gives the Mariners plenty of options. Justin Smoak still has a job for now, and there's no pressure to bring back Kendrys Morales.
The Mariners may have just snagged themselves production equal to Morales at a fraction of the cost, and they can now easily let Morales walk and take a pick in return.
Steamer projects 1.7 WAR for Hart and Oliver projects 2.2, while Kendrys Morales receives predictions of 1.9 and 1.7, respectively.
This leaves the door open for the Mariners to keep shopping for pitching and bats, and Ryan Divish tweeted that this signing may actually make things easier to pursue Shin-Shoo Choo, now that they've added a relatively inexpensive right-handed bat before attempting to lure in a lefty with serious platoon deficiencies.
There will plenty of time to criticize the Mariners, but this is a time to praise them. Even if Hart's production isn't what it should be, the risk is incredibly low. The Mariners managed to add what very well could be an impact bat, and it won't cost them any talent or draft picks to do so. Celebrate.
Update: Hart's deal is for 1 year, $5 million with a chance to earn up to $13 million in incentives.