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Seattle lures Hart out of Milwaukee

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By Tom Haudricourt
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
December 12, 2013

Lake Buena Vista, Fla.--Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was disappointed not to retain first baseman Corey Hart but made it clear Wednesday he did not blame Hart for taking a far better offer from Seattle.

Melvin wouldn’t provide exact details, but the Journal Sentinel learned the Brewers offered Hart a base salary of $4 million with $2.5 million in incentives. The Mariners offered Hart a $6 million guaranteed salary with incentives that could push his total compensation to $13 million, doubling the total package presented by Milwaukee.

Hart made $10 million in 2013 but had surgeries on both knees and missed the entire season.

Melvin said Hart’s agent, Jeff Berry, told him what the Mariners had on the table and the sides were too far apart to close the gap. Melvin offered a choice of an option but said Hart and Berry didn’t want it.

“We just didn’t think we’d get there,” said Melvin. “In the scheme of things, if I’m a player it probably was (a big gap) in some sense. We worked hard at it. There’s risk involved in everything you do. With certain players there are performance risks, injury risks and medical risks. You give the best offer you feel you can give and still try to continue to put a team together. The incentives was a big difference.

“Corey had a very nice career here. The American League (has) the DH. The talent pool for NL league clubs (is less). That’s not crying or whining. That’s just the way it is. Sometimes you can get an additional 25 or 30 games in a DH role. The incentives can be reached a little more in the American League.

As for Hart’s comments in late September that he’d take less money to return to Milwaukee, the team that drafted him in 2000, Melvin said, “I understand it. I don’t know what (that statement) means, a lot of times. It shouldn’t be painted as a bad picture that Corey left because he said that. We said the same thing, that we’d like to have him back.

“When it gets down to it, you have to look at the numbers, look at the situation and weigh into it.”

Melvin noted that Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik was the Brewers’ scouting director when Hart was drafted and has a relationship with him. Hart also wanted to play for a team that trains in the Phoenix area.

Hart put out this statement about his decision: “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 and made a strong push. And I get a chance to DH some while still having Spring Training in Arizona near home. I have no hard feelings toward the Brewers and certainly have great appreciation for the team and its fans. This was just the best thing to do for me and my family.”

As for where this leaves the Brewers at first base, Melvin said, “We’re still looking. We still have a few things moving; not a lot of things.”

Melvin said he would explore both trades and the free agent market, neither of which is booming at present.

“Whatever is the best fit, giving up the least,” said Melvin. “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.”

If Melvin goes the free-agent route to avoid giving up players for an Ike Davis or Mitch Moreland, it would appear James Loney is the best option. Loney is coming off a nice year with Tampa Bay and reportedly was seeking $27 million over three years, a level the Brewers probably can’t reach. But if the price comes down the Brewers might make a strong play.

“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. The guys (in the front office) were getting on me last night. I said I’d like to find a first baseman who can play first. We’ve had so many guys who haven’t played first.”

Melvin said it was unlikely that he’d find a first baseman—either through free agency or a trade—before the winter meetings end this morning.

“You can only do what’s available,” he said. “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. It’s a little surprising in some cases, but in some cases maybe not.

“I’ve said all along there’s no guarantee you can fill the position in one year or two years. Certain positions just aren’t that available. Some years they are; some years they aren’t. We’ve gone through every name available. We’ve gone through the list for six weeks now.”



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