Brewers lose Hart, coming up empty at first base

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' primary focus of the offseason remains the same since the 2013 season ended: first base.
That search intensified after free agent Corey Hart spurned the Brewers' offer to return to Milwaukee for a more generous offer from the Seattle Mariners at baseball's winter meetings in Orlando. The Brewers are exploring trade options as well as the remaining free-agent market, neither of which is brimming with great choices.
"We're still looking," said Melvin, whose offer to Hart -- $4 million salary plus $2.5 million in incentives -- was blown away by Seattle. The Mariners coughed up $6 million salary plus $7 million in incentives.
"Whatever is the best fit, giving up the least. Giving up players is always hard. If you give up a player and have to fill that hole, we'd like to try to avoid that. If you make a trade, you do it from depth you have a certain positions."
One possible trade candidate was eliminated when the Mariners traded for Logan Morrison of the Miami Marlins. The Brewers have talked to the New York Mets about Ike Davis and also looked into Mitch Moreland of Texas and Justin Smoak of the Mariners.
The best option might prove to be free agent James Loney, coming off a solid year with Tampa Bay (.299, 13 home runs, 75 RBI in 158 games). Loney, 29, reportedly was seeking a three-year, $27 million deal, a level the Brewers probably can't reach. The Brewers were expected to try to tempt him with a lower offer.
"He's still out there," said Melvin. "As long as players are still out there, they're all viable options. We have (looked into him). He fits the profile."
Two things in Loney's favor: He was as a Gold Glove finalist in 2013 and also would provide a left-handed bat to a very right-handed Brewers lineup.
"You can only do what's available," said Melvin. "We're pursuing anything or anybody, and there's a lot of them that haven't played first base for a long period of time ... It's not a great list of guys at that position."
The good news is the Brewers appear set at every other position in the field. Once Melvin figures out first base, he'll likely go shopping for veteran arms in the bullpen.
NOTES: LHP Wei-Chung Wang was selected by the Brewers in the Rule 5 draft out of Pittsburgh's system. Wang, 21, pitched in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2013 so it's a stretch to jump to the big leagues from there but the Brewers like his upside and are intrigued enough to take a look at him in spring training. ... 1B Corey Hart turned down an offer to return to the Brewers and instead signed a one-year deal with Seattle. Hart had been the longest-tenured Brewer as an 11th-round draft pick in 2000. ... LHP Tom Gorzelanny had surgery on his left shoulder in what was termed a "clean out" procedure. Gorzelanny was shut down over the final month of the season with shoulder tightness but the situation did not improve afterward and the decision was made to have the surgery. The veteran reliever is not expected to be ready to pitch until mid-March but the Brewers hope he will be ready for Opening Day. ... LF Ryan Braun will move to right field in 2014 to replace RF Norichika Aoki, who was traded to Kansas City. Braun's switch will allow young OF Khris Davis to see action in left field. Because of a below-average throwing arm, Davis is considered a left fielder only. ... 2B Rickie Weeks is on schedule as he recovers from a torn hamstring that ended his 2013 season in early August. Even if Weeks is healthy by spring training, young 2B Scooter Gennett appears to have the edge as the starter at the position after excelling over the final two months as Weeks' replacement.

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