Corey Hart Rumors

Mets Notes: Hawkins, Hart, Ellsbury, Choo

Here's the latest out of Queens..

  • The Mets have already reached out to free agent reliever LaTroy Hawkins about returning, a baseball source tells Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News (via Twitter).  Another unknown club has also gotten in touch with Hawkins, who served as the Mets' closer to finish the 2013 season.  The 40-year-old posted a 2.93 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 70.2 innings of work last season.
  • The Mets are one of a dozen teams that have reached out to veteran free agent Corey Hart, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post (Twitter link).  MLBTR's Steve Adams sees Hart getting a one-year, $8MM pact with $2-4MM in incentives.
  • In today's mailbag, a reader asks MLB.com's Anthony DiComo if Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo could be realistic options for the Mets.  After speaking with a number of people both inside and outside the Mets organization, DiComo came away with the impression that no one expects GM Sandy Alderson to do anything of that magnitude.

Indians Notes: Perez, Westbrook, Hart

Yesterday, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the Indians were never close to giving Jose Dariel Abreu the kind of money he received from their intra-divisional rival, the White Sox. In other Tribe tidbits from Hoynes:

  • Re-signing Matt Capps to a minor league deal is not an indication the Indians are going to part ways with closer Chris Perez. If tendered a contract by the Indians, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $9MM salary for the arbitration-eligible Perez. If Perez is traded or non-tendered, Hoynes names Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw as the best in-house replacements.
  • Right-hander Jake Westbrook is definitely someone the Indians will keep an eye on this off-season, if healthy. The Cardinals are expected to decline their half of Westbrook's $9.5MM mutual option in favor of a $1MM buyout. The 36-year-old spent nine years in Cleveland before being acquired by the Cardinals at the 2010 Trade Deadline.
  • Corey Hart is a tough fit for the Indians because his knee surgeries make it unlikely he can man the outfield and they already have Nick Swisher at first and Carlos Santana at DH. While the Indians have gambled on buy-low contracts for pitchers coming off an injury, Hoynes cannot recall such a deal for a position player. MLBTR's Steve Adams predicts the open market will bear a one-year, $8MM contract for Hart with an additional $2-4MM in incentives.

Free Agent Profile: Corey Hart

After converting to the Brewers' full-time first baseman midway through the 2012 campaign, Corey Hart was expected to miss the season's first month due to offseason microfracture surgery on his right knee. Setbacks in his recovery would end up pushing his return date back, and Hart would ultimately injure his other knee, leading to another surgery that cost Hart the entirety of the 2013 season. Hart is now set to hit free agency more than 12 months removed from his last Major League game.

Strengths/Pros

Power is Hart's biggest asset when healthy. He's posted an ISO north of .225 each season from 2010-12, averaging 29 homers per season in each of those campaigns. In fact, dating back to 2010, the only free agents with an ISO greater than Hart's mark of .235 are Mike Napoli and Curtis GrandersonHart-Corey

While he's much better against left-handed pitching (as is the case with many right-handed sluggers), Hart still handles same-handed pitching quite well. From 2010-12, Hart posted an .822 OPS and 120 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers.

Hart will turn 32 years old next March, so while he's on the wrong side of his prime, he's young enough that there's no need to expect a sharp decline in his skills. Because he didn't play in 2013, he's not going to receive a qualifying offer and should only command a one-year deal on the free agent market. Hart offers as much raw power as nearly any free agent on the market, but will come at a fraction of the price in terms of years and dollars, without requiring a draft pick.

Weaknesses/Cons

Hart was never an elite right fielder, but after a move to first base in 2012 and what has turned into a severe knee injury, his days in the outfield could be over. If that's the case, and Hart is limited to first base, he doesn't bring much in the way of defensive value. In his brief career at first, Hart has graded out as a poor defender.

Hart's power levels jumped in 2010, and he's been able to sustain those elevated levels, but it's come with an increased strikeout rate as well. Hart struck out in nearly 23 percent of his plate appearances from 2010-12, and he's never been one to take many walks (career 7.1 percent walk rate).

It's also no guarantee that Hart will come back as the same player he was in 2010-12. He's a buy-low candidate for teams in need of power, but should a contending team feel comfortable banking on Hart to hold down a spot in the middle of the order? The Rangers went a similar route with Lance Berkman this past offseason and received little return on that investment.

Personal

Corey is known as a strong family man. He and his wife, Kristina, have two daugters and two sons together. He has been active within the Wisconsin community, participating in charity funds for the Girl Scouts of Milwaukee Area, the Girls of Summer Softball League, the Wisconsin American Legion, Stomp Out Spit Tobacco, Make-A-Wish and more.

Market

Hart has already said that he'd take a discount to return to Milwaukee — the team that drafted him in 2000 and the only organization that he has ever known. The matchup makes sense, too, given the Brewers' lack of a clear internal candidate to man the position. Milwaukee deployed a combination of Alex Gonzalez, Juan Francisco, Yuniesky Betancourt, Sean Halton and Blake Lalli at the position in 2013 and received a ghastly .211/.256/.359 batting line. The Brewers' collective wRC+ of 64 was the worst in all of baseball at first base, making a reunion with their longest-tenured player an attractive option.

Sticking in the midwest, the Twins lack an obvious first base candidate and could afford to take a flier on Hart. He'd be a nice trade chip for their rebuilding efforts should they sell pieces next July. The Indians could deploy Hart at first base and move Nick Swisher back to the outfield, moving Drew Stubbs into a fourth outfielder role. Elsewhere around the league, the Orioles, Mariners, Rangers, Red Sox, Rays, Mets, Pirates and Rockies all have uncertainty at first base/designated hitter. And with Jose Dariel Abreu now committed to the White Sox on a six-year deal, Hart's competition on the open market has decreased.

Expected Contract

An incentive-laden one-year deal seems likely, and it makes sense for both Hart and his suitors. Interested teams aren't likely to be comfortable guaranteeing multiple years for Hart, and he's young enough to cash in on a strong season and earn a multiyear pact next winter.

Hart earned $10MM in 2013 but could have to take a pay cut. Berkman was able to land a $10MM base salary plus a $1MM buyout on his $12MM option for 2014, but he at least played in 32 games in 2012. Hart, on the other hand, never took the field and is coming off surgery on both knees, making the Berkman deal a lofty open-market goal for he and agent Jeff Berry of CAA.

His track record from 2010-12 is still strong though, and right-handed power is in scarce supply beyond Hart, Napoli, Byrd and Nelson Cruz. Ultimately, I think Hart could command a one-year, $8MM contract on the open market with another $2-4MM worth of incentives. If he's serious about taking a discount to stay with the Brewers, he may play for slightly less than that and settle for a $6MM base salary as a show of good faith to the only organization he's ever called home.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Hart Would Give Brewers Discount To Stay In Milwaukee

Corey Hart hasn't played a game for the Brewers this season but he hopes to make it up to them in 2014.  The outfielder/first baseman says that his preference is to stay in Milwaukee when his contract expires after the season, and he is willing to take a pay cut to make that happen, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

"I told them I would be very generous to stay here. I wouldn’t sit there and ask for anything outlandish. I’d definitely take a discount to stay here because I think I owe it to them to stay here and be a cheaper player," Hart said. "Nobody wants to play for free but I basically sat there and watched all season. I owe it to them and the fans to come back at a cheaper price."

Hart has been sidelined for all of 2013 while undergoing surgery on both knees and even when taking the loyalty out of the equation, it didn't seem likely that he'd find a deal to match his $10MM salary from this season.  While Hart has told the club "numerous times" that he wants to stay put, he has yet to have discussions about a new deal.  

For his career, the 31-year-old owns a .276/.334/.491 slash line across nine seasons with two All-Star selections in 2008 and 2010.


Quick Hits: Shortstops, Indians, Hart, Papelbon

The All-Star Futures Game demonstrated how strong the future of the shortstop position can be, writes Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. The World roster alone featured Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox, Francisco Lindor of the Indians and Carlos Correa of the Astros, leaving the Cubs' Javier Baez out in the cold. (Addison Russell of the Athletics started for the U.S. team.) There has been a bit of a void at the position since the heyday of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra in the 1990s, Castrovince says. It's unclear whether the new group is good enough to yet again raise the bar for the position. "The more competition I have, the better it's going to make me," says Lindor. "I see Bogaerts got called up [to Triple-A], I see Correa's doing great, I see [Jurickson] Profar is in the big leagues, I see what Baez is doing, and I think that's awesome." Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • The Indians are 51-44 through the first half of the season, and their best path to improving at the trade deadline and staying near the top in the AL Central is improving their bullpen, Bud Shaw of the Plain Dealer writes. Upgrading their shaky rotation will be tricky, since they can't justify trading a top-notch prospect like Lindor, particularly not for a rental player. Upgrading their bullpen, rather than their rotation, would allow them to keep Lindor and pitching prospect Danny Salazar.
  • After having knee surgery, Corey Hart is now out for the season, and it's unclear what his future holds, reports Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel. He's a free agent this offseason, and he'd like to stay with the Brewers. Due to the injury, it likely won't take a large financial commitment for Milwaukee to keep him. "I’ve talked to my agent. This is my home – I’ve been them almost half my life," says Hart. "I’d like to continue as long as they’ll let me. This might have been the silver lining to let me stay here – maybe a lower salary with incentives helps my case."
  • The Red Sox appear unlikely to pursue Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies as the trade deadline approaches, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe tweets. Abraham cites both Papelbon's recent performance and his salary. Papelbon has a 2.33 ERA, but his strikeout rate (8.0 K/9) has dipped substantially this year, and his velocity is down a bit as well. He's still an effective reliever overall, but there's little doubt that his contract, which will earn him $13MM per year through 2015 with a vesting option for 2016, is worrisome.

Corey Hart To Undergo Season-Ending Surgery

Brewers first baseman Corey Hart has spent the whole season rehabbing a right knee injury, but he will undergo surgery on his left knee and miss the entire 2013 season, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

The news means that the Brewers, who will clearly be sellers at the deadline this season, will lose a player who could have been one of their primary trade chips. The Brewers could still dangle Yovani Gallardo, Aramis Ramirez, Norichika Aoki, Kyle Lohse and a number of other players, but Hart's .279/.343/.514 batting line and average of 29 homers per season from 2010-12 certainly would have been of their more desireable assets.

The move also have significant implications for Hart, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season. Had he enjoyed a healthy season with similar production, Hart could have positioned himself for a four- or perhaps even five-year deal. Now, he's likely looking at a one-year deal to prove his health.


Latest On Corey Hart

THURSDAY: Hart is likely to miss the rest of the season, sources tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  "We don't know yet," said Brewers GM Doug Melvin.

TUESDAY: There was a time when Brewers first baseman/right fielder Corey Hart looked like an extension candidate, or at least a trade candidate, but those ideas might be out the window due to a delayed recovery from January knee surgery.  As Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel explains, Hart once talked about a May season debut, but he suffered setbacks in recent workouts and still isn't close to a minor league rehab assignment.  There's no talk of a timetable; a mid-July return after the All-Star break appears unlikely.  Adds Haudricourt, "At this point, it's not completely out of the question that he will miss the entire season, though nobody is ready to say that yet."

The Brewers are clearly defined sellers this summer, and Hart could have been a primary asset since he's in his contract year and offers good power.  But Hart won't be traded by the July 31st deadline, and the idea of moving him in August is speculation at best.  He's earning $10MM and can block deals to 15 teams.

The Brewers weren't interested in extending Hart prior to the injury, he explained to Haudricourt, saying, "They weren't really open to talks beforehand so it's not like me having a bad knee affected it."  Hart, who will play next season at age 32, averaged 29 home runs per year from 2010-12.  Given the seriousness of his knee injury, Hart seems a candidate for a one-year free agent deal in the offseason.


Central Notes: Gallardo, Twins, White Sox

The Royals made this a special Father's Day for 21 dads as the team invited the players' fathers to travel with them on their current road trip to Tampa and Cleveland. Dick Kaegel of MLB.com reports the idea was the brainstorm of the Royals' senior director of travel Jeff Davenport, who borrowed the idea from NHL teams, and was approved quickly by GM Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost. The idea came as a shock to some of the dads including the father of infielder Elliot Johnson, Robert. "Elliot told me about it and I had to call him back three times to make sure I got this story right — I said, 'You've got to be kidding me. All I have to do is get to Kansas City and they're going to put me on a plane and fly me along with you and not charge me anything? And I'm going to get in a hotel and eat with you guys and hang out with you?" The trip hasn't been without incident. Robert Johnson admitted he had an argument with Hall of Famer and new Royals batting coach George Brett over – what else – Elliot's hitting. In other news and notes from MLB's Central divisions: 

  • After struggling for most of the season, Yovani Gallardo has now tossed 14 consecutive scoreless innings. With the Brewers in last place and Gallardo controlled affordably through 2015 ($11.25MM in 2014 and a 2015 club option worth $13MM), the right-hander's name has popped up as a trade candidate (including by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes two weeks ago) and he has heard the talk. "We'll see what happens," Gallardo told reporters including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. "It's definitely a little bit different. It's the first time I've been in a situation like this — not to say that anything is going to happen." McCalvy reports Gallardo can block trades to ten teams, but Gallardo acknowledges even he doesn't know the identity of all of them. 
  • While the Brewers don't anticipate Corey Hart returning from offseason knee surgery until after the All-Star break, at the earliest, GM Doug Melvin will not rush first base prospect Hunter Morris to the Majors, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Melvin told Haudricourt service time considerations aren't part of the decision-making process, "He needs to play more at Triple-A. We just want to make sure he's ready before making a move like that." The Brewers entered the weekend last in the NL at first base with a .493 OPS and 14th with four home runs and a .275 slugging percentage.
  • Twins GM Terry Ryan told Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, and Kevin Correia will be the most asked about players as the Trade Deadline approaches (Twitter link).
  • Twins closer Glen Perkins will also be sought after by teams looking to bolster their bullpen, including the division rival Tigers. Ryan, however, told Bowden he has not had any conversations with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and would rather have Perkins pitch for him than against him (Twitter link).
  • Yesterday, the White Sox announced the signing of seventh-round draft choice Trey Michalczewski. Today, Jim Callis of Baseball America tweeted the prep third baseman will receive a $500K bonus, which is $323.4K above the recommended slot (per Baseball America). 

NL Central Notes: Hart, Choo, Arroyo, Cardinals

Brewers GM Doug Melvin indirectly shed some light on the philosophical differences which led to trading Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays. Lawrie's name came up when Melvin told Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the plan is to keep second base prospect Scooter Gennett in Triple-A for the full season instead of being promoted because of the struggles of Rickie Weeks. "The plan worked for (Prince) Fielder and Corey Hart and all those guys," Melvin said. "Spend your time at each level. That's the part I couldn't get through with Brett Lawrie. He wanted to go past everybody. That model works if you're a freak like Ryan Braun, but he did play at every level. I always say to go out and prove you're too good for the league. If you do that, we'll consider moving you up." Instead Melvin, moved Lawrie out to Toronto. In other news from the the NL Central:

  • Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told reporters, including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, there is no plan to send Corey Hart, recovering from right knee surgery, on a minor league rehab assignment before June 1. This means Hart, who is eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on May 30, will not join the Brewers until mid-June, at the earliest. 
  • The number of years and not money will be the issue for the Reds in trying to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Choo ranks second on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
  • If Choo does re-sign with Cincinnati, a payroll casualty could be Bronson Arroyo. In a second tweet, Fay says the Reds' payroll is a big puzzle and there are lots of factors involved in trying to retain both Choo and Arroyo.
  • Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opines merit is not behind the Cardinals' decision to replace the injured Jaime Garcia with fellow left-hander Tyler Lyons, but a desire to delay the service clock of their top pitching prospect, Michael Wacha. This is the second time Wacha, owner of an 1.89 ERA in eight Triple-A starts, has been bypassed to fill a rotation opening. Miklasz further believes the Cardinals, owners of the best record in the National League, don't have the best 25 players in their system on the active roster citing top prospect Oscar Taveras toiling away in Triple-A while Shane Robinson and Ty Wigginton are struggling offensively. 
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak disagrees with Miklasz's assessment. "I’m not worried about the clock," Mozeliak was quoted as saying by the Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold (via Sulia). "The media is making a lot of the clock. Other people who read the media are making more of it. To me it’s like that’s not what is making our decisions. It’s managing our decisions for what’s best for the club and what’s best for the individuals in their own silo of development."
  • Chris Carpenter is continuing to make progress in his recovery from nerve trouble in his neck and back soreness and could make a rehab start in early June, Goold reports. "I’m not going to push myself back," Carpenter said (as quoted by Goold on Sulia). "I’m going to make sure that I’m healthy and that I know everything is going to work and that I can go out there and take that grind of the amount of pitches and innings it takes to go the rest of the year." Carpenter threw three simulated innings Saturday, will throw a side session Monday, and throw another four simulated innings Thursday, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch and Chad Thornburg.

Central Notes: Garza, Tigers, Hart, Royals

Cubs manager Dale Sveum told reporters, including MLB.com's Carrie Muskat, that Matt Garza will most likely miss the first month of the season. Garza, ranked ninth on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings and one of the prime trade targets last summer until he hurt his elbow, strained his left lat two weeks ago when he faced live hitters for the first time since July. In other news involving teams from the NL and AL Central Divisions: