Corey Hart Rumors
12:46pm: The Brewers are making Hart a priority, Berry told Haudricourt. However, Berry notes that there's been interest from other clubs and there will have to a fit for both sides.
7:57am: Free agent first baseman Corey Hart says his agent, Jeff Berry of CAA Sports, is likely to meet with the Brewers this week in Orlando, Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel writes. Hart, who missed the entire 2013 season and underwent knee surgeries in January and July, is likely to receive an incentive-heavy deal.
Haudricourt notes that the Brewers likely will not want to extend the sort of multi-year deal it would take to acquire James Loney to fill their first base void, and have not shown interest in Michael Morse. The Brewers could involve themselves in trade talks for first basemen like Ike Davis or Lucas Duda of the Mets, or Logan Morrison of the Marlins, but perhaps only as a backup plan if they can't re-sign Hart.
Hart had received interest from the Rockies, Red Sox, Rays and others this offseason, although the Rockies have since agreed to terms with Justin Morneau, and the Red Sox have agreed to re-sign Mike Napoli. The Pirates might be another logical fit. Hart, however, wants to stay in Milwaukee and has said that he would play at a discount in order to stick with the Brewers.
Dave Stewart, Matt Kemp's agent, has a "strong feeling something could happen" involving his client at the Winter Meetings, the former pitcher tells ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes. "This is the first time we've experienced this," Stewart said. "This is the first time we've heard it this much, and the first time we really believe something could happen." The Dodgers have been listening to offers for Kemp, and the Mariners, Rangers and Red Sox have all been linked to the outfielder, plus other teams.
Here's the latest from around the NL West...
- The Rockies are still looking for bullpen help and have maintained their interest in Jose Veras and Jesse Crain, Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports (Twitter links). The club's interest in Crain, of course, hinges on whether he is healthy following the shoulder injury that prematurely ended his 2013 season.
- The Rockies had interest in Corey Hart and Mike Morse but both players profiled better as first basemen, Renck notes, a position that Colorado has since addressed by signing Justin Morneau. The Rockies have a hole in left field, with Carlos Gonzalez shifting to center and Michael Cuddyer remaining in right.
- The Padres had some interest in David Murphy and Nate McLouth, MLB.com's Corey Brock tweets. With Murphy and McLouth respectively signed by the Indians and Nationals, however, San Diego's search for a left-handed hitting outfielder may have ended with their trade for Seth Smith.
- Ichiro Suzuki seems relegated to the bench in New York, so John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter links) thinks the Giants should try to acquire the veteran address their outfield depth. Shea notes that Suzuki and Giants manager Bruce Bochy share an agent, plus Suzuki could be cheaply acquired from the Yankees. San Francisco had some interest in Ichiro when he was a free agent last winter.
While we try and catch our breath from an insanely busy day here at MLBTradeRumors, let's take a glance at the latest out of the AL and NL Central..
- Sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) that Carlos Beltran still isn't close on a deal with anyone. Earlier today, we heard that Beltran had already received an offer of three years and $48MM from the Royals.
- Free agent Corey Hart has been cleared for baseball activities, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com (via Twitter). The first baseman/outfielder missed all of 2013 with the Brewers thanks to knee injuries.
- Paul Konerko will tell the White Sox if he intends to play in 2014 before the Winter Meetings begin December 9th, a source tells Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com (on Twitter).
- At today's introductory press conference for Ricky Nolasco, Twins GM Terry Ryan confirmed that the club isn't done free agent shopping, tweets Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press.
- The Pirates view Mike Napoli as the perfect fit at first base but it still doesn't appear they will lay out the cash needed to sign him, tweets Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.
Corey Hart told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (Twitter link) that his agent has talked with the Brewers, Red Sox, Rays, and Rockies amongst other interested teams. Hart added that he won't officially get 100% medical clearance until December 3rd when he visits his doctor in Los Angeles, but he's fully healthy (link).
The CAA Sports client doesn't consider himself to be an injury prone player but admits that he's in a holding pattern until he's cleared physically, tweets Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Twitter links). Hart says that he's dropped 20 pounds and that he should be able to run around better than he had the past few years, so he'll be open to playing in the outfield (link).
Also from Rosiak, Hart says that a winning team would be nice, but he's a family man first and will do what he feels is best for them. As MLB.com's Adam McCalvy points out in his transcript of Hart's interview, Harts and his family live in Arizona, which could factor into his decision. McCalvy notes that of the four teams mentioned by Hart, the Rockies and Brewers both have Spring Training facilities in the Phoenix area. The Spring Training facilities for Tampa Bay and Boston are each in Florida.
Hart last played in 2012, batting .270/.334/.507 with 30 homers, 35 doubles and four triples, illustrating why he can still be considered one of the most promising power bats on this year's free agent market even after missing the 2013 season.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
- Five or six teams have inquired about Davis and/or Lucas Duda, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports. Duda is considered by some AL teams to be a fit as a designated hitter, Carig tweets.
- Peralta appears to be the Mets' top free agent target, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. The club "really likes" Peralta but they don't know if he intends to sign soon or later in the offseason.
- The Mets have talked to free agent Corey Hart, but Martino gets the sense that they either don't identify him as a top target or aren't that eager to get a deal done with him. Carig (link) also hears from a source that the Mets aren't close to a deal with the Brewers first baseman. "We haven't discussed him in depth enough to say where we'd put him if we got him," the source said.
- The Mets have plans to meet with Curtis Granderson's agent this week, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post (on Twitter). The outfielder is turning down the Yankees' $14.1MM qualifying offer.
- The Mets have touched base with Marlon Byrd's representatives in the last few days, according to Carig (link). Recently, Steve Adams examined the market for Byrd and concluded that he could fetch a deal in the neighborhood of $16MM over two years.
- A source suggested to Carig (link) that it would make sense for the Mets to take their time in trading Davis and take advantage of a market that is starved for power. Carig (link) hears that the Mets might do just that and hang on to him until later in the offseason when teams will be seeking out less costly alternatives to add power.
- The Mets aren't actively talking to Mike Pelfrey about a possible reunion, but they are open to it, a team official tells Adam Rubin. "I know he is on a long list of guys just like him," the team insider said. The Mets non-tendered the hurler after he earned $5.7MM in 2012.
- The Mets' top priority is shortstop, but they're hardly alone in that, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Possible options for the Mets include Peralta, Erick Aybar, Didi Gregorius, Rafael Furcal, and Jed Lowrie.
The GM Meetings begin tomorrow in Orlando and run through Wednesday, but it could be a very quiet three days for the Brewers. "I don't anticipate us being overly active at this point but things could change," GM Doug Melvin told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "There's not a lot of openings in the regular lineup." Budget constraints will also play a role in the Brewers' level of activity, according to Haudricourt, as the club is approximately $14MM under its 2013 Opening Day payroll (not including arbitration and pre-arbitration salaries). Here's more from Haudricourt's piece:
- "There's nothing major on the free-agent market we'll probably get involved with," Melvin said. "Maybe we'll do something with the bullpen, make an addition or two."
- Melvin sees first base as the one position the Brewers need to fill. Re-signing Corey Hart, who is drawing interest from the Mets and a handful of other teams, is the coventional wisdom, but Melvin has only committed to speaking with agent Jeff Berry about Hart's status at some point.
- The Brewers are not believed to have interest in Justin Morneau, James Loney, and/or Mike Napoli at this stage.
- If Hart doesn't re-sign with Milwaukee, one internal option is Juan Francisco, who is showing improvement offensively during Dominican Winter League play (.338/.437/.568 with 18 RBIs - second in the DWL - in 74 at-bats including a .404/.462/.702 slash with 14 RBIs versus left-handers in 47 at-bats, per MLB.com). At the least, Haudricourt sees Francisco providing depth at both infield corners (Francisco has split his time with Licey between third base and DH while appearing in just three games at first).
- Providing middle infield depth will be Elian Herrera, who the Brewers claimed off waivers from the Dodgers on Monday. "He's somebody who can play all over the field, including shortstop if we need it," said Melvin.
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.
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.
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.
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 Granderson.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.