The Pittsburgh Pirates have announced the signing of 1B/RF Corey Hart to a one-year deal. To make room on the 40-man roster, pitcher Preston Guilmet has been designated for assignment.
Hart is a name familiar to fans of the Pirates, as he spent his first nine seasons in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers. He missed all of 2013 after needing surgery on both knees, one prior to the season and the other in June after he got hurt during rehab. In 2014, he played 68 games for the Seattle Mariners, hitting .203/.271/.319 in 232 at-bats. His missed time with both a knee injury and an injured left hamstring.
When healthy, Hart put up some strong numbers in Milwaukee, twice making the All-Star team. He had a .276/.334/.491 slash nine during his nine seasons with the Brewers. He hit a total of 87 homers from 2010-2012. Hart mostly played outfield during his career, but he has played 107 games at first base, and as a right-handed bat, the 32-year-old veteran will likely be a platoon at first base with Pedro Alvarez. Hart has a career .866 OPS against left-handed pitching.
Guilmet was purchased by the Pirates from the Baltimore Orioles right after the season ended. The 27-year-old right-hander has pitched 14 games in relief over the last two seasons, splitting his time between the Orioles and Cleveland Indians.
UPDATE 2:16 PM: Jon Heyman says that Hart will receive $2.5 M, plus $2.5 M in possible incentives.
Corey hart gets $2.5M from pirates, plus $2.5M in incentives
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 19, 2014
UPDATE 2:18 PM: Thoughts from Tim Williams…
This move seems like a big gamble, with a chance for a big upside if Hart works out. That’s a huge “if” though, since he has dealt with a ton of injuries the last few years, including missing all of 2013 after having surgery on both knees. He missed a month in 2014 with a knee contusion, another month with a hamstring strain, and missed some time early in the year and in Spring Training with back and forearm problems. So obviously there are some serious health issues here.
The upside to this move is that Hart has done well against lefties in his career, so if he gets back on track, he could be a strong platoon partner with Pedro Alvarez. He also has been good against right-handers, and while he’s not great in that category, he wouldn’t be bad as a full-time option if he was able to bounce back. But again, all of this comes with the huge disclaimer that he has dealt with a ton of health concerns the last few years, making it unlikely that the Pirates will be getting his prime production.
As far as being just a lefty platoon guy at first base, it’s possible that this limited role could keep Hart healthy enough to put up his old numbers. The Pirates have placed a big focus on keeping players healthy the last few years, with some very innovative ways to track fatigue. It’s possible that this could also help Hart rebound in Pittsburgh.