Hart, Melvin both say no hard feelings
If there was a shared message Wednesday from Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and new Seattle Mariner Corey Hart it was this:
No hard feelings.
“I can’t get into specifics right now,” Hart said in a text message after agreeing to a one-year deal with Seattle, “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.”
The Brewers, meanwhile, were moving on to Plans B, C, D and so on. The club will “probably” depart Orlando on Thursday with their first base situation still unsettled, said Melvin, who did not blame Hart for choosing a more lucrative offer from Seattle even though Hart said three months ago he’d take a discounted deal to stay in Milwaukee.
Melvin said the Mariners topped the Brewers both in terms of guaranteed money and total value, but would not divulge any details about his best offer lest it impact negotiations with other players. A source confirmed that Hart’s one-year deal with the Mariners guarantees $5-$6 million and could top out around $13 million with incentives that he is more likely to reach because of the designated hitter.
The Brewers’ offer reportedly topped out around $8 million, including incentives.
“It shouldn’t be painted as a bad picture that Corey left because he said that [about taking a discount],” Melvin said. “Because we said the same thing — we said we wanted to have him back. When it comes down to it, you have to look at the numbers, you have to look at the situation, and weigh everything into it.”
Several factors worked in Seattle’s favor. The Mariners, like the Brewers, have Spring Training in west Phoenix, near Hart’s home. Hart has familiarity with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik, who drafted Hart in 2000 when Zduriencik was Milwaukee’s amateur scouting director. And in the American League, Hart can occasionally serve as the designated hitter, and opportunity to rest his surgically-repaired knees while still pursuing those contract incentives.
Zduriencik told reporters that Hart and newly-acquired Logan Morrison (picked up Wednesday in a trade with the Marlins) would play some outfield in addition to first base and the DH.
“The talent pool for National League clubs [is smaller],” Melvin said. “And this isn’t crying or whining or anything, it’s just the way it is. Sometimes you can get an additional 25 or 30 games in a DH role.”
Melvin met with agent Jeff Berry one last time on Wednesday morning and offered to add an option for a second season, but the Hart camp preferred a straight one-year deal.
Berry asked Melvin if the Brewers wanted to otherwise sweeten their offer.
“I said, ‘We’re too far apart to go back and forth and it’s too late in the process,’” Melvin said. “We have a good relationship. 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. …
“There’s risk involved with everything you do in all this,” Melvin said. “Certain players are performance risks, certain players have injury risk and medical risk. You just give the best offer that you feel you can give and still try to put a team together. Corey was here  years — he had a very nice career. … He’s been here longer than I have.”
Asked where this left the Brewers at first base, Melvin said, “Still looking.”
He had “a few things working” as of Wednesday afternoon but does not expect the search to end before the Brewers contingent heads home Thursday. He met with representatives for free agent James Loney, who reportedly wants a three-year deal. Melvin also has had some trade talks this week with the Mets, who are listening to offers for Ike Davis. Other potential trade targets include Justin Smoak of the Mariners (though Zduriencik insisted Smoak was still part of the M’s plan) and Mitch Moreland of the Rangers.
“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.”
Loney, he said, “Is still out there. As long as players are still out there, they’re all viable options.”
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