LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla — A free agent after playing with the Milwaukee Brewers for parts of nine seasons, Corey Hart finally surrendered his cheese and beer credentials to sign with another club. He'll play for the Seattle Mariners in 2014, as first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports at baseball's winter meetings Wednesday afternoon.
Hart's deal hasn't been confirmed by the Mariners, and there's only speculation on the money, but Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the contract is like the one Mike Napoli signed with the Red Sox that had a base of $5 million with incentives that gave him a chance to earn $13 million.
The Mariners also traded relief pitcher Carter Capps to the Miami Marlins for slugger Logan Morrison. They like Morrison to play the outfield, reportedly, and for Hart to play first base. This combination of moves would seem to lock out Kendrys Morales from returning to Seattle. They've also been interested in Matt Kemp, but the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly pulled him off the trading block.
Hart and Morrison will join Robinson Cano, who got paid $240 million by the M's before the meetings began. Hart, who turns 32 in March, earned $10 million in 2013 but didn't play all season after having surgery on both knees. He has a career hitting line of .276/.334/.491 with 154 home runs 3,802 plate appearances. A two-time All-Star, his best season — relative to the rest of the league — was 2011 when he hit 26 homers and slugged .510.
Hart's production, as noted by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, has been better by half — in terms of wins above replacement — than that of Nelson Cruz, who is seeking a multi-year contract. A popular player in Milwaukee, Hart was the longest-tenured Brewer and reportedly made a promise to take a "hometown discount" during free agency.
Heyman also notes that Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik, who helped to draft Hart for the Brewers in 2000, probably was a reason Hart left Milwaukee.
Here's what Hart told reporter Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
"I can't get into specifics right now, but this was a family decision based on a lot of factors. The Mariners showed they were sincerely interested in me and made a strong push. No hard feelings toward Brewers. This was just the best thing to do for me and my family."
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