Corey Hart Rumors
Now that it's clear Nelson Cruz won't be back, it's unclear who the Rangers will use as their designated hitter against lefties, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. The Rangers still had interest in Cruz, Grant writes, noting that, in addition to the qualifying offer, they made at least one offer that exceeded the $8MM Cruz ended up taking from the Orioles. That leaves them with a variety of options to play DH against lefties, but none manager Ron Washington likes very much: Mitch Moreland is a lefty, Michael Choice doesn't have enough experience for Washington's taste, and Washington would prefer to keep the Rangers' spare catcher (Geovany Soto or J.P. Arencibia, depending on who isn't starting) available on the bench.
- With Cruz off the market, Grant, in a separate article, believes now is the time for the Rangers to extend manager Ron Washington. Grant also opines players tagged with qualifying offers are going to think more seriously about accepting them in light of Cruz's surprisingly small contract.
- Yankees manager Joe Girardi thinks new minor-league signee Andrew Bailey can help them in the late innings, but probably not until September, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweets. The former Athletics and Red Sox closer had labrum surgery last July.
- The Red Sox will try Mike Carp out at a new position this spring, Alex Speier of WEEI.com tweets. While Spring Training experiments like these aren't uncommon and often have little long-term impact, a bit of added versatility might change Carp's outlook with the Red Sox, particularly if he can play third, where the Red Sox are less settled than they are elsewhere. Carp hit .296/.362/.523 in 243 plate appearances last season, but the Red Sox already have plenty of talent at first base, left field and DH, which has led to speculation that Carp could be a trade candidate.
- Scott Boras blames the Blue Jays' lack of activity in the free agent market on its ownership, Rogers Communications, reports FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. "There is no one who has the asset base of Rogers," said Boras. "They’re a car with a huge engine that is impeded by a big corporate stop sign . . . a successful and committed ownership that needs to give their baseball people financial flexibility." GM Alex Anthopoulos denied Boras' assertion telling Rosenthal, "Our ownership has been outstanding and given us all the resources we need." The Blue Jays' payroll is expected to exceed $130MM this season.
- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters, including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune, Justin Smoak will be the team's first baseman as long he performs. This means McClendon expects new acquistions Logan Morrison and Corey Hart to man the corner outfield spots and DH.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow acknowledged internal discussions about a contract extension for catcher Jason Castro have taken place, reports the Houston Chronicle's Evan Drellich. No offer, however, has been discussed with Castro.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Last night, the L.A. Times' Dylan Hernandez elaborated on reports that Michael Young is said to be weighing retirement, noting that if Young played in 2014, it can be considered a "safe bet" that it will be for the Dodgers. Young has been connected to a number of teams thus far, but to this point, there's yet to be a concrete indication as to whether or not he will play next season. Here's more out of baseball's Western divisions...
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels said over the weekend at the team's fan fest that he would approach ace Yu Darvish about an extension "at the right time," writes ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett. Daniels pointed out that Darvish is controlled for four more years, so there's no urgency in getting a new deal worked out. The team's current focus is on getting Darvish, who was unsurprisingly announced as the Opening Day starter, ready to make 33 starts in 2014. As Durrett reminds, Darvish's contract allows him to opt out of the final year if he wins a Cy Young or finishes No. 2-4 in the voting twice from now through 2016.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post has still not heard of any interest from the Rockies in terms of a potential reunion with Ubaldo Jimenez (Sulia link). The relationship between the two sides ended poorly, says Renck, and it wouldn't make sense on Jimenez's behalf to spend the bulk of his career pitching at an altitude.
- Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes that the Mariners are comfortable using a rotation of Corey Hart, Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison at first base and DH, with Hart eventually getting more time in the outfield as his surgically repaired knees recover. Hart has been doing simulated ground-balls to work on his footwork and agility but has not yet progressed to taking fly-balls, he said at the Mariners' fan fest this weekend. The presence of all three first base/DH-type players led to trade speculation earlier in the offseason.
- Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes that Prince Fielder will hit third ahead of Adrian Beltre in next year's Rangers lineup -- a concept that caused Beltre to boldly proclaim that Fielder will win the American League MVP award. Though he's usually been the one in the No. 4 spot (behind Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera), Fielder said he's excited to hit in front of Beltre. New leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo's robust on-base percentage figures to help Fielder's counting stats as well, Fraley points out.
Adding Robinson Cano to their lineup was the start of many changes in Seattle, and Corey Hart turned out to be the next piece of their puzzle. Seattle today announced the signing of Hart to a one-year contract. Reportedly worth a guaranteed $6MM, Hart will have the opportunity to earn an additional $7MM via incentives. Hart is represented by CAA Sports.
Hart, 32 in March, missed the entire 2013 campaign after undergoing surgery on both knees. In his most recent healthy season, Hart delivered his typical brad of strong pop from the right side of the dish, batting .270/.334/.507 with 30 home runs. In the three seasons prior to his injury, Hart slashed .279/.343/.514 and averaged 29 homers per season, meaning his 2012 campaign was a good representation of his talent level when healthy.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports noted that, Hart will slot into the Mariners lineup behind Cano, adding some much-needed offense to a club that has struggled to score runs in recent seasons. The Mariners will likely use Hart in right field, notes Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. Though he has proven to be a capable first baseman, the Mariners also acquired Logan Morrison from the Marlins at this week's Winter Meetings (in exchange for right-hander Carter Capps). Morrison could see more time at first base, though like Hart, he has experience in the outfield as well.
Hart and Morrison will provide new manager Lloyd McClendon with another pairing of new bats to add to the lineup behind Cano in an effort to bolster a lineup that finished the 2013 season 22nd among all Major League clubs in runs scored despite ranking second with 188 home runs.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports (on Twitter) that the Brewers were willing to offer Hart a contract that could reach $8MM after incentives. At one point, Hart had said he would take a discount to remain with Milwaukee, but his ties to Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik (Milwaukee's scouting director when Hart was drafted), the recent addition of Cano and his larger payday all could have factored into Hart's decision to head to the Pacific Northwest.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported that the agreement was in place (Twitter link). Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reported that Hart would be guaranteed $6MM with enough incentives to take him up to $13MM (also on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Rangers made headlines today by selecting Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Before going on to NFL stardom, Wilson was selected by the Rockies as a second baseman in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and Colorado retained its rights to Wilson until this morning. Wilson will report to Spring Training and talk to the Rangers' minor leaguers in a motivational capacity. "We decided if he ever wanted to play again, he'd be a guy that we'd want with us," Texas assistant GM A.J. Preller told reporters, including MLB.com's Richard Justice. The Wilson selection isn't a gimmick, ESPN's Richard Durrett writes, and Jon Daniels is excited to have Wilson's winning qualities in the organization, though Daniels stressed that the club isn't trying to distract Wilson from his NFL goals. Here's more out of the AL West...
- Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz remain unsigned, which is good news for the Rangers, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett writes. The Rangers like both players and are hoping that their asking prices drop the longer they stay on the market. Daniels said that his team's pursuit of Choo was "unchanged" from yesterday.
- There is a chance that Michael Young could rejoin the Rangers if both parties see a fit, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez tweets. Texas dealt its longtime franchise staple to the Phillies last offseason and Young was subsequently dealt to the Dodgers in August.
- Despite recent rumors linking the Angels to Matt Garza and Raul Ibanez, general manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters (including Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times) that his team doesn't have any outstanding offers to free agents.
- In a special piece for FOX Sports, new Mariners first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison wrote about the experience of being traded to a new team. Morrison's piece is particularly fascinating in that it was written prior to the trade that sent him to Seattle. LoMo says he doesn't have any ill feelings toward the Marlins organization, adding that contrary to public opinion, owner Jeffrey Loria was "great and generous" to Morrison and his family. Loria allowed Morrison and his family to use his personal plane to get to Kansas City for the funeral of Morrison's father.
- The Astros spoke to the Marlins about Morrison and also pursued Corey Hart and Mike Morse, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. Jose Veras rejected the Astros' initial contract offer but the two sides still share a mutual interest in a reunion.
- The Yankees, Indians, Braves, Phillies, Blue Jays, Twins and Indians were all involved in trade talks for Brett Anderson before the Athletics sent the right-hander to the Rockies, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
A look at the AL West..
- The Mariners' plan for Corey Hart is to see time in the outfield and at DH and he's not necessarily slotted for first base despite his knee troubles, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
- Astros manager Bo Porter is pushing for Michael Morse in Houston, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Morse is said to be willing to do a one-year deal to re-establish his value.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels says that he has had a few conversations with Nelson Cruz's agent and will continue to talk with him, tweets Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com.
- The Angels aren't close to any free agents signings, so if Matt Garza is nearing a deal somewhere, it's not with the Halos, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register.
The latest out of the AL and NL Central..
- The Cubs are among the teams with interest in Roberto Hernandez, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin says that he'll look for a true first baseman to replace Corey Hart, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (on Twitter). "I'd like to find a first baseman who can play first. We've had so many guys who haven't played first," said the GM.
The Brewers topped out around $8MM for Hart, according to Haudricourt (on Twitter).
Cubs president Theo Epstein says the club has offers out to a free agent starter, a free agent offer, and a trade offer for a hitter, tweets Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Theo added that he has other trade talks taking place as well.
- Dombrowski also noted that the Tigers haven't ruled out signing Max Scherzer this offseason, tweets John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.
- After initially being caught off guard by the trade, Adam Eaton says he's confident and ready for a fresh start with the White Sox, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.
12:46pm: The Mariners are indeed in on Hart, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, who notes that GM Jack Zduriencik drafted Hart when he was Milwaukee's scouting director back in 2000.
12:38pm: USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets that Hart is torn between re-signing with the Brewers or signing with another team, which could be the Mariners.
9:39am: Hart is currently weighing offers from multiple teams, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter).
WEDNESDAY, 7:24am: The Brewers are still waiting on word from Hart, but feel like they've done all they can do and are optimistic about their chances, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
TUESDAY, 8:25pm: Free agent first baseman Corey Hart could agree to terms with a team tonight, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy tweets. Earlier this week, a report indicated that the Brewers were prioritizing re-signing Hart. They also have a need at first base. Hart, meanwhile, has said he would be willing to take less money to stay in Milwaukee.
Hart missed the 2013 season and has recently had surgeries on both knees. He hit .270/.334/.507 for the Brewers in 2012. The Brewers currently have Juan Francisco atop their depth chart at first base.
The Brewers have a one-year offer plus some incentives on the table to Hart, but he's weighing an offer from another team that is said to contain more incentives than the Brewers' offer. Brewers officials were up past 1am ET last night waiting on a response from Hart before hearing that he needs more time to make his decision.
GM Doug Melvin heard from James Loney's agent this morning, but McCalvy indicates that Loney's three-year asking price is too high. Trades for Ike Davis and Logan Morrison present alternatives, but the Mets have asked Milwaukee for Tyler Thornburg in return for Davis -- a surprisingly lofty price considering the two seasons each had. Davis batted .205/.326/.334 for the Mets, while Thornburg posted a 2.03 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 66 2/3 innings and finished the season strongly as a member of Milwaukee's rotation.
The Brewers would like resolution on the situation before tomorrow's Rule 5 Draft, McCalvy reports.
- According to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link), the Cubs have received inquiries about Starlin Castro's availability, but have no intention of trading him. "We're excited to have Starlin," said GM Jed Hoyer.
- Hoyer hasn't ruled out the possibility of the Cubs trading a top prospect, telling reporters, including Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com (Twitter link), that they "would certainly consider it" if it made sense for the club's long-term future.
- Discussing potential free agent additions, GM Neal Huntington said today that it's very unlikely the Pirates would sign a player that required giving up draft pick compensation, and confirmed that Pittsburgh won't be in on Masahiro Tanaka if he's posted (Twitter links via Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review).
- The Pirates plan to fill their hole in right field internally, but are keeping an eye out for a starting pitcher, a middle infielder, and another bat (likely a first baseman), according to Huntington (Twitter link via Sawchik).
- Adam Rubin of ESPN New York (Twitter link) continues to hear that the Brewers' preference is to re-sign Corey Hart, assuming the money doesn't rise out of their price range. In that case, the Mets would have to look elsewhere for an Ike Davis trade partner.
It remains to be seen whether or not Masahiro Tanaka will be posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles, but if he is and the Diamondbacks have yet to address their starting pitching needs, expect Arizona to place a bid on the Japanese right-hander, tweets Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. Here's more on the D-Backs and a pair of their NL West rivals:
- Kevin Towers and the D-Backs don't mind waiting on Eric Chavez, who is deciding where he wants to play and monitoring Arizona's moves, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link).
- Asked about the possibility of trading Archie Bradley, Towers suggested today that it would be "very, very tough" for the D-Backs to do so, tweets Gilbert.
- The Padres have interest in Scott Downs, among other southpaw relievers, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. San Diego's Josh Byrnes confirmed that the team is casting a wide net for bullpen help, indicating that he has touched base with "most" available left-handed relievers (Twitter link via Adam Berry of MLB.com).
- According to Berry (Twitter links), Byrnes said the Padres have weighed "six or eight ideas" and have meetings set up to discuss free agents and trades. Byrnes also shot down the latest round of Chase Headley rumors, stating that the team views the third baseman as part of its 2014 plans.
- Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area has some details on the Giants' search for an outfielder, tweeting that the Giants called three times on Norichika Aoki before the Brewers decided to send Aoki to the Royals. In a second tweet, Baggarly says the Giants are interested in Michael Morse and Corey Hart, but probably not at the years and dollars those players will command.
- John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle provides a couple more Giants updates, reporting that no teams have inquired on San Francisco's five starters, but that the club's young pitching has drawn some interest. Shea adds that the team appears unlikely to bring back Chad Gaudin (Twitter links).