Brewers extend All-Star Hart through 2013

So much for the summer trade chatter surrounding Brewers outfielder Corey Hart. He’s not going anywhere.

 

Hart’s memorable season paid off Monday when he signed a three-year contract extension with the Brewers that covers 2011-2013, which would have been his final year of arbitration-eligibility and his first two years of free agency. The deal takes Hart, 28, through his age 31 season.

The Brewers did not announce any financial terms.

The extension might not have been fathomable as recently as April, when Hart was coming off an awful Spring Training and was left out of the Brewers’ Opening Day lineup and off the All-Star ballot. He was already under the microscope after winning a $4.8 million salary in arbitration, the first player to take the Brewers all the way to a hearing since 1998.

So Hart went to work.

“I’m anxious to go out there and prove to everybody that I’m worth it,” he said in Spring Training. “I told Doug [Melvin, the Brewers' general manager] and Gord [Ash, the assistant GM] that I want to go out and prove to them that I’m a guy who could get a long-term deal.

“I love Milwaukee, my family loves it and we want to stay. The fan base has been really good to me, and the ones who are mad, hopefully I can win them back over.”

Mission accomplished. Hart made the 2010 All-Star team via the players’ ballot and ended up starting for the National League in place of injured Braves rookie Jason Heyward.

Through Sunday’s loss in Houston, Hart is batting .288 with 23 home runs and 72 RBIs. His two-run homer in the sixth inning on Sunday snapped Milwaukee’s 28-inning scoreless streak

“I am so happy that all his hard work has paid off,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said when Hart was named an All-Star. “And he continues to work hard.”

With Hart, the Brewers have four players signed past the end of next season. Left-hander Randy Wolf’s three-year contract runs through 2012 and includes a club option for 2013. Right-hander Yovani Gallardo signed an extension earlier this season that runs through 2014 and includes a 2015 club option. And left fielder Ryan Braun is already three years into an eight-year deal through 2015.

Braun is with the same Creative Artists Agency as Hart, but the Brewers had never exactly cruised through negotiations with Hart’s primary agent, Jeff Berry. In 2008, Hart’s final pre-arbitration season, the sides were unable to reach a compromise and the Brewers renewed Hart’s contract for $444,000. In 2009, after initial talks about an extension didn’t progress, the sides didn’t strike a deal until the eve of a scheduled arbitration hearing. Earlier this year, the sides went all the way to a hearing.

Hart is the longest continuously-tenured member in the Brewers’ organization. He was selected in the 11th round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, a lanky kid out of Bowling Green, Ky. who always seemed overshadowed by Minor League teammates with higher prospect status. Yet while Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder and J.J. Hardy got most of the press, Hart collected most of the hardware, including the Southern League MVP Award in 2003.

When Hart debuted in the Majors in 2004, the first of that wave of prospects to make it, Brewers fans were so starved to see a winner that they gave Hart a standing ovation at Miller Park before and after a pinch-hit strikeout.

By the end of 2006, Hart was a regular in Milwaukee’s outfield. He had at least 20 home runs, 80 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in both 2007 and 2008 before taking a step back in 2009.

Hart’s hot start in 2010 made him a favorite of the rumor mill ahead of Saturday’s nonwaiver Trade Deadline. He said all along that he preferred to stay.

“I would be disappointed to be traded away from the Brewers, because this is the only team I know,” Hart said last month. “I would like to stick it out here and help to turn things around.”

He’s going to get his chance.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com.

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