Corey Hart is going to miss some time, and it wasn't the knees that did him in. Yesterday, when Hart popped up grimacing after stealing second base, Mike Blowers pegged it right away on the television broadcast. Strained left hamstring, the severity of which is yet to be known as Hart flies back to Seattle for an MRI. It didn't look good, and a disabled list stint seems to be inevitable, and it could be an extended one. Logan Morrison is still trying to recover from a hamstring injury of his own, re-aggravating it at least once during the rehab process. Morrison has been out for five weeks.
Given the Mariners lack of offense in recent games, this seems like a rough development. But it sounds a lot worse than it actually is, given Hart's struggles of his own. Hart, despite the flashes of power, has largely been a disappointment this year, seeing his wRC+ fall all the way down to 82. Hart has been below replacement level to date as the positional adjustment at DH is killing him, sitting at -0.4 WAR so far. Is it misguided to think that Hart's injury may come as a blessing in disguise? Not really.
That depends on whether or not you believe Hart was ready to bust loose, which is a certain possibility. Hart's BABIP sat at .233, but even with some luck normalization, the power had been severely lacking, even in recent weeks. Now the Mariners are set to replace a below replacement level player with Nick Franklin, who doesn't have to be a stud, or even good hitter to replace the production that Hart brought. But Franklin's destruction of the AAA circuit has reached comical levels, carrying a whopping 189 wRC+ with a .257 ISO. His BABIP is .425 (!) and he's now walking as much as he's striking out. There's nothing left for him to prove. It's time to give another full, extended shot.
The Franklin promotion, which seems inevitable starting with tomorrow's short series against the Rangers, is an easy fit for the Mariners. It gives them a little more time to evaluate Brad Miller, even though there isn't much to evaluate anymore. Miller's WAR sits just a hair above Hart at -0.3, and that's with a positive UZR and the favorable positional adjustment at shortstop. There's nothing left to gain at this point. Miller is showing zero signs of coming out of his slump, and while Franklin might not take over for Miller right away, he can certainly play every day in some sort of utility role. Franklin has been working through a minor back issue, but has played his last three games with Tacoma in the outfield.
It won't be hard for the Mariners to find at-bats for Franklin given their new-found vacancy at DH, though Franklin seems likely to play all over the field to begin, giving Cano some days off at DH, spelling Ackley in left or Saunders/Romero in right. Either way, Franklin should (and probably will) be in the lineup with far greater frequency than his first go-around this year. There's no reason to promote him otherwise. It's time to see if Franklin is ready to sustain his step forward at the highest level.
Hart's injury might be happening at just the right time. Lloyd McClendon has said before he likes to split the seasons into thirds before making any serious decisions, which means Brad Miller only has about a week of games left to right the ship...right about the time that Chris Taylor will be recovering from his hand injury. While Taylor isn't on the 40-man roster, he could certainly be added while somebody like Lucas Luetge gets the boot. While Taylor's .372/.414/.593 line in Tacoma has been excellent, I'm not in favor of calling him up yet, but that's another post entirely.
The Mariners roster could look quite a bit different in the next week or two. With Logan Morrison preparing for a rehab assignment, his return is more likely to send Brad Miller down to AAA than Nick Franklin, as Morrison could return as the semi-regular DH while Franklin shifts over to shortstop. If Franklin doesn't shift to shortstop, Chris Taylor for Stefen Romero may not be far behind, and James Paxton for Brandon Maurer could be shortly after that, as well as Taijuan Walker. Theoretical help is on the way.
Corey Hart clearly has the track record to be a lot better than he has been, but by stripping away the pedigree, the Mariners are replacing a sub-replacement level player with an unknown one, and are likely preparing to demote another one. It's just the people involved that make these developments disappointing, though there's plenty of bubbling optimism to replace them. We like Corey Hart. We like Brad Miller. All things considered, it would be a lot more fun if the Mariners were winning because of them instead of despite of them. As it stands, they're probably ready for some new answers and a new set of problems.