Each day until free agency begins, we at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will become a free agent five days from the conclusion of the World Series. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with right-handed outfielder Corey Hart. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink.
Corey Hart played exactly zero innings with zero plate appearances in 2013. Hart was rehabbing his right knee after surgery when he injured his left knee so much that that knee required surgery. It is rumored that he was injured while wearing his sunglasses at night – but don’t worry folks, he will never surrender.
Ok, I’ll stop.
(On a side note, my mom at one point believed she was the inspiration for the song “Sunglasses at Night” after seeing Corey Hart, the singer, perform in Allentown before the tune came out.)
Since becoming a full-time player in 2007, Hart has averaged 23+ homers and 15+ steals a year, playing primarily right field for the Brewers. From 2007 through 2012, Hart was worth 15 WAR according to FanGraphs, making him the 28th most valuable outfielder in the Majors. Entering 2014, Hart has a career triple-slash line of .276/.334/.491 but was worth -55.9 runs on defense, or about negative three and a half wins, from 2007 through 2012, putting himself in defensive company with Manny Ramirez and Pat Burrell in that stretch.
Assuming Hart’s knees are healthy, he could step in as the Phillies everyday right fielder but it is certainly a gamble. If healthy, or if on the road to health, Hart could provide between 1.5 and 2.0 wins. The Steamer projection system thinks he will be worth 1.4 wins next season, or a 4.2 win swing from their MLB-worst fWAR of -2.8 in right field last season. Hart’s right-handedness would certainly add balance to a lefty heavy line-up.
There is, however, the very real possibility that Hart’s knees are never again the same and he is an even worse right fielder than he was before. Then, Hart would be an $8 million insurance policy for first base.
Hart was not projected by the FanGraph’s crowd-sourcing project but if he produces 1.4 WAR, he would be worth between $6-7 million. Because of his knee injuries, a team may be able to get him for $3-4 million a year. The price may get much lower if a team assumes more risk by adding more years to the deal. MLB Trade Rumors’ Steve Adams believes that Hart may be in line for a one-year, $8 million contract with incentives.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Hart has been told he will be 100% by Christmas and according to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, Hart has expressed his desire to remain in Milwaukee, even if “(the contract) is at a discounted rate”. The Phillies may be able to squeeze Hart into their already-cramped budget for 2014 but there may be nothing they can do if Hart wants to return to Milwaukee bad enough.
When ranking right-handed power-hitting outfield options, I would put Hart in between Chris Young (review found here) and Marlon Byrd (review found here) on my big board. Hart is risky and he will likely end up back in Milwaukee but his bat is big enough to overcome defensive efficiencies and could be a good value play for any team that ultimately signs him.