Up until a few years ago, Corey Hart was a dangerous hitter. From 2010-2012 he had a .279/.343/.514 line, averaging 29 home runs per season. To put that in perspective, an .857 OPS would have ranked 15th among 146 qualified hitters in baseball last year, and would have ranked second on the Pirates — ahead of Josh Harrison and behind Andrew McCutchen.
The Pirates signed Hart for $2.5 M this off-season, and if they can get anything close to his former numbers, that amount will end up being the steal of the off-season. In fact, the deal has already received a lot of votes for the best off-season signing in the $3 M and under category of Jayson Stark’s recent article. But there’s a reason why Hart signed for only $2.5 M, despite the former numbers.
Hart missed all of 2013 with knee problems, and had surgery on both knees. He returned in 2014 with Seattle, playing a DH role, while also working at first base and the corner outfield spots. But the numbers were nowhere close to what he put up prior to his injuries. Hart had just a .590 OPS in 255 plate appearances, and just six homers. Thus, the reason why he was signed for just $2.5 M this off-season.
In order for the Pirates to get value for Hart, he needs to be healthy, especially with his knees. I asked Clint Hurdle how the Pirates felt about Hart’s knees, and Hurdle said that they were comfortable with his health, although he might not be able to play the outfield at the same volume as he did in the past. After that, I talked to Hart in a one-on-one interview that can be seen below.
There is definitely reason to be skeptical about whether Hart can rebound with the Pirates, especially after his struggles last season. If there’s one reason for optimism, it’s Hart’s comments about the difference between last year and this year. He told me that he was working last year to get the strength back in his knees. “This year I was able to work out the whole off-season and come in strong. I didn’t have to worry about any rehab stuff, so it was nice to just work out and get ready for the season.”
Hart showed off some nice power at the plate during batting practice yesterday, which can also be seen in the video below. Along with the knee issues, we discussed his potential role, and what led to his down numbers last year.