The Milwaukee Brewers’ search for a first baseman will trudge on after their top option has decided to head elsewhere.
Free-agent first baseman Corey Hart has agreed to a one-year deal with the Seattle Mariners. The deal was first reported by CBSSports.com.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Seattle’s offer to Hart carries a base salary of $6 million with $7 million to be earned through incentives, while the Brewers offered $4 million with $2.5 million in incentives.
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General manager Doug Melvin presented the offer to Hart’s agent, Jeff Berry, around 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon and expected to hear back later on that evening. Berry informed Melvin around midnight that no decision was coming until Wednesday. The two met face to face Wednesday morning and it was clear the two offers were drastically different.
“We just didn’t think we’d get there,” Melvin said. “In the scheme of things, if I’m a player (the gap in the offers) probably was (big) in some sense.
Hart, 31, missed all of last season after two separate knee injuries required him to have surgery on his right knee in January and on his left knee in July. The Brewers obviously were concerned about Hart’s durability moving forward, as Milwaukee doesn’t have the luxury of having use of a designated hitter like Seattle does.
“I said, ‘We’re too far apart to go back and forth and it’s too late in the process.’ We have a good relationship,” Melvin said. “There’s no animosity. We were very upfront. There was not a whole lot of negotiating going on. They didn’t take our offer for leverage.
“On any player, we have a certain level we can go to. Our level of risk with players on performance and players with injuries is different than others.”
Transitioning from right field to first base in 2012, Hart hit .270 with 30 home runs and 83 RBI in 149 games for the Brewers. Hart was the longest tenured member of Milwaukee’s roster, debuting in 2004 and coming to the big leagues full-time in 2006.
Hart played in 945 games and made the All-Star team twice for the Brewers over nine seasons, hitting .276 with 154 home runs, 211 doubles, 33 triples and 508 RBI.
During a September visit to Miller Park, Hart expressed his desire to stay in Milwaukee and indicated he would take less money to do so.
“I’ve told them I would be very generous to stay here,” Hart said in September. “I wouldn’t sit there and ask for anything that is outlandish. I would take a discount to stay here because I think I owe it to them to stay here and be a cheaper player, because — nobody wants to play for free — but I’ve basically sat there and watched all season. I think I owe it to them and the fans to come back.”
A couple of reports indicated the Brewers’ offer to Hart, including incentives, topped out at $8 million for 2014.
Melvin now must move on to other options, but his options are slowly dwindling. Marlins first baseman Logan Morrison, too, is heading to Seattle in a trade.
The Brewers have explored the possibility of trading for Mets first baseman Ike Davis, but New York’s asking price was one of Milwaukee’s young pitchers. As for the free-agent market, James Loney is the best available first baseman, but he’s asking for a multiyear deal.
Melvin acknowledged the Brewers have considered Loney and that he fits the profile of what the team is looking for.
“We’re pursuing anything and anybody, and there’s a lot of them that haven’t played first base for a long period of time,” Melvin said. “It’s not a great list of guys at that position. It’s 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, two years or whatever.”
Quotes for this story provided by the Milwaukee Brewers and ProTV Sports