If you followed me on Twitter, then you’ve seen my many rants in the last week about how the Pirates are wasting a roster spot by keeping Corey Hart around.

Hart was originally signed by the Pirates with the intent that he could be the right-handed platoon guy at first base, along with an appearance in right field to get him some extra time. Here we are on June 17th, and Hart has no real role with the team.

On Sunday, Hart started at first base, which was a very significant event. It was significant because it was his only start in the last month, and his first start since May 16th. His other appearances in the last month include eight pinch hit appearances, in which he has gone 1-for-8 with four strikeouts.

Part of the problem early in the year for Hart was that he lacked playing time, due to the low amount of left-handers the Pirates were facing. But they played several left-handers this week, and in most of those cases, he sat in favor of Sean Rodriguez, who has emerged as the top option as the right-handed hitting first baseman and late inning defensive replacement. He’s not a great hitter, but he’s doing better than what the Pirates have with Hart.

Using the same month-long timeframe, Rodriguez has six starts, with five of those coming at first base and all of those coming with lefties on the mound. The first start Rodriguez had at first base came on May 13th, with Cole Hamels on the mound. That probably happened because Corey Hart was slated to start the second game of that double-header.

There has been a change at first base, with Hart making one start and Rodriguez making five starts at first base against lefties in the last month.

As for right field, the last time Hart played the position was on May 13th in that double-header. Prior to that, he played the position twice at the start of the season.

It’s obvious that the Pirates don’t trust Hart in right field. And it’s obvious that they no longer see him as the top option as the backup first baseman. That makes his only role a pinch hitter, and he’s not hitting. Basically, Hart is the backup to a very infrequently used platoon role, he’s not an option in the outfield, and his only useful role is an area where he has struggled this year. In other words, Corey Hart has no role with the Pirates.

This isn’t the same as the situation with someone like Vance Worley, who also hasn’t seen much usage lately. The reason Worley hasn’t been used is because the pitching staff is unreal at the moment. You don’t have much use for a long reliever when your starters are consistently performing as one of the best groups in baseball.

The Pirates do have a need for an extra bat off the bench, which is why carrying Hart hurts them so much. With Rodriguez playing more first base, there is more of a need for an extra outfielder. The Pirates also lack a left-handed hitter off the bench.

It would make all the sense in the world to replace Hart with Jaff Decker right now. Decker is crushing the ball in Triple-A, with a .324/.393/.486 line in 105 at-bats. He’s left-handed. He plays outfield, and can actually provide some value out there. There’s no guarantee he would be better than Hart offensively, but if the Pirates are going to bet on someone, Decker would be the better choice over Hart. Worst case, Decker would struggle just as much as Hart offensively, but would at least give the Pirates a guy who could help on the defensive side of the ball, and who would have an actual role on the roster.

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75 COMMENTS

    • 3 hits. and none of them gave me a single shred of hope that his career is over. If Charlie Morton pitched 100 at bats against him right now, and threw nothing but sinkers, and told Hart he was throwing nothing but sinkers, Morton would strike him out in 60% of his at bats, have 20% ground outs to 3rd/shortstop, 10% walks, and 5% hits, and then every other option being the remaining 5%

      • This is probably true from a strict interpretation of known tendencies, eyeball test and spreadsheet analysis. However, you are discounting the power of “Gods of Baseball Smiling” on Clint Hurdle, who seemingly cannot make a poor decision in June.

        Really, in addition to playing Hart, who puts in Caminero after batters have had 7 innings of Cole 98 mph heaters? Mere mortal managers would’ve called on a reliever with a different velocity profile or a LH. Not Clint. 1-2-3.

        We’re living a charmed life right now. Enjoy it while you can.

  1. One of these days, we’ve got to stumble into using a Bautista, Moss, Pearce, etc enough to realize their value before letting them go. Maybe Decker is finally the one.

  2. On top of all that, it would open up some much needed space to get the other 4 (Garcia, Broxton, Rojas, & Hernandez) OFs in Indy consistent ABs

  3. Tim/John,

    Question on procedure: can a team “work out” a free agent before signing them? At the very least they can make the guy take a physical, but how much actual physical testing are they allowed to do?

    It has been very difficult for me to understand from the time Hart started working out in Spring Training how the Front Office honestly believed his health would allow him to be a contributor. For a player with such glaring health issues in the immediate past, it seems like there should be some way for teams to hedge their bets before wasting $2.5m and a roster spot.

  4. I’ve been just plain mean at times discussing Corey Hart, but this will be my last comment on him, specifically. Last night genuinely made me sad.

    By all accounts, Corey Hart is a great baseball man and was certainly one of the more productive hitters in the National League for several years. It honestly pains me to watch a guy reduced to nothing by injuries who clearly is taking the last feeble swings of his professional career. I’ll take no pleasure in piling on any more. Best of luck to Corey.

    • I would much rather him find his swing and become a useless pinch hitter for us if no better than Jason Giambi at the end of his career. Unfortunately, the hit I just saw from him thanks to an elevated fastball which matches his swing path- is probably his last

  5. harts legs are shot ,he getting nothing from his lower body when hitting. had a good career ,but it may be time to make him hang up the spikes.

  6. Woulda been easiest just to put up Hart’s numbers as reason why he should go. Not a bad risk to sign him, but he sure is nearing retirement with his heath/ability.

  7. Is there a measurement kept for a first baseman’s reach from the bag? Rodriguez is pretty much in a full split. Really solid defensively at 1st.

  8. Hart never should have been signed and I don’t understand why he hasn’t been cut yet, but the Pirates brass can be stubborn and slow to admit to mistakes.

    I would be fine if the cut Hart and replaced him with anyone – but the obvious choices would be Decker, Lombardozzi, and Hernandez. Lombardozzi can play more positions and has major league experience, but other than that flip a coin among these three.

      • Stupid comment…I am well aware of our team’s record – you act like I root against them. That doesn’t mean that the FO doesn’t make mistakes and I have seen a pattern of being a little slow in making these kind of decisions – Pimentel, Frieri, Hart are a few examples. Why else would they keep Hart, other than just trying to save face?

        • I’m not sure the examples you give support your argument.

          Pimentel doesn’t belong on this list – he was far from the biggest arsonist on the squad last year – Wilson, Morris, Grilli, then later Frieri did more damage than Stolmy could possibly have done in his meager 20 appearances. One of the lowest leverage pitchers in all of baseball.

          He has a live arm, uncommon stuff but because he was out of minor league options, he had to continue his development at the big league level. That’s a gamble worth taking in most circumstances, unless he is stealing a job from a more qualified/similar or better upside pitcher. He wasn’t.

          Frieri was acquired because the FO cut bait on Grilli – a decision many think happened too SOON, given Grilli’s bounce back in Anaheim. And Frieri was on the team all of 5 weeks before they pulled the plug. Hardly lingering, especially when you consider the first few weeks of that tenure Ray Searage was working on fixing Frieri’s mechanics.

          I’m sure Hart will move on in due time and someone else can absorb the paltry playing time he has eaten up so far.

  9. Totally off topic, but is anyone paying attention to Jeff Locke’s velocity? I have never seen his velocity around 94. Is Cellular Field’s gun calibrated right?

      • Wow, when did he hit this extra gear. He has looked great the past couple starts. I am glad to see because I always thought he could be a good starter for us for a while. He is just so inconsistent.

        • nate: He looked excellent last night – command was there from the very start of the game. His 94 mph FB was a surprise, but bodes well for him as a starter and as a reliever if he has to go that way. Yep, that trade with Atlanta looks awfully good with the way that Morton and he are pitching.

          • People overlook this deal all the time but I suppose that’s because Locke is inconsistent and Morton is hurt a lot but the trade was robbery if you consider what McClouth brought the Braves.

    • I have the MLB package and got the White Sox announcers because it’s a road game. They said Locke can hit 94 or 95 and I just assumed they mixed him up with Watson. Then I saw it. This is a tick or two higher than I was used to. ESPN referred to him as Justin Locke which was great.

  10. I’m not a huge Mullet fan, but the guy can play all 3 OF positions and is certainly a better late inning defensive asset than Tabby (and probably SRod) if Hurdle needs to make a double switch. And his minor league splits vs LHP aren’t awful (better than Hart, anyway).

    • Napoli’s been bad at the plate this season, and I’m not sure why, so I don’t know if he’s likely to rebound or not, but he is 33 with some injuries in his past, so there’s a chance he’s in decline.

      Honestly, there aren’t any really good options on the trade market. Lind is probably the best who has any chance of being available, but that would require trading inside the division. It would take the moon to bring back someone like Goldschmidt, Freeman, or Abreu. Maybe Lucas Duda would be an option, but I don’t think the Mets are ready to sell yet, if they ever are (if the Nationals don’t start pulling away). Everyone else is either on a long-term expensive contract, on a contender, or not an actual upgrade.

      • Napoli has definitely struggled but all signs point to him being fine down the stretch. He had a terrible April, really good May, and having awful June but should figure it out. Mets look like they will be in a pennant race well past the deadline so Duda will stay for sure. All of those big names you mentioned come at a huge price both prospect-wise and price-wise. That’s a big part of why I like Napoli. He would be around 8 mil for a half season…and he is a battle-tested guy who has played well in the post season. An added bonus is his best OPS month is Sept. Like I said if they had to give too much it wouldn’t be worth it…but I don’t think you want to go into a playoff stretch with Pedro’s unreliable defense.

    • Those are some big numbers you’re looking for. If that second one is OBP, there’s only two 1B in the league with those numbers: Goldschmidt and Miggy.

    • Have you seen Napoli attempt to hit recently ? He is terrible, I don’t care what his history shows. Today is today.

      • Napoli playing at his worst still has a higher WAR than Pedro playing acceptable ball. (For him.) Napoli has never finished with an OPS under .794. Pedro has never had an OPS over .784. Factor in defense and the gap widens. 2.5 months is not good for evaluation. Napoli is 33…not old. He will be fine.

  11. I have been beating this drum for awhile. I agree 100% – please also I think Lambo has seen his days numbered. Sean R. is vastly superior to him. He is probably milking his service time because he knows his days are numbered.

    • It’s still early to start the countdown clock on Lambo, especially as long as he has options remaining. He’s not competing with Sean Rodriguez for a job – they both made the club out of spring training and have been used in different roles (Lambo LH PH and occasional corner OF; S. Rodriguez Super-Utility, RH 1B/defensive replacement). By the time he’s healthy he may have been Pipped by Jaff Decker (who, it should be noted, has also squandered his first few chances in the show), but he’s still next in line if Pedro goes down, or Tabata or Decker falter (this assumes Hart is no longer with the club). No one else at Indy is remotely ready to contribute, especially from the left side.

      • Stephen: Lombardozzi is a switchhitter, has played about 5 different INF/OFpositions, and is hitting .291 with a .373 OBP against RHP’s at AAA. He was called up and got very few chances – I think 4 AB’s before being sent back. He is not a power bat, but he can be a contributor from the left side, has MLB experience, and would be my second choice after Decker, who I think has earned the opp.

  12. Inexplicable lineup just posted. Why not move SeanRod to 1b, Cutch to the OF and DH Hart (or Cole as I posited below). Playing Hart ANYWHERE is horrible.

    Pirates Lineup:

    2B Josh Harrison (R)
    CF Starling Marte (R)
    DH A. McCutchen (R)
    3B Jung-Ho Kang (R)
    C F. Cervelli (R)
    SS Jordy Mercer (R)
    LF Sean Rodriguez (R)
    1B Corey Hart (R)
    RF Gregory Polanco (L)

    • Probably taking advantage of an opportunity to give Cutch a little rest without having to take his bat out of the lineup. I kind of like it, it’ll delay his next day off a bit without having to concede his productivity with the bat.

      • Yes, giving Cutch’s legs a rest is the obvious reason. I am hoping Hart is gone after this series. Bring up Decker for a month. If he doesn’t contribute, Lambo may be ready by then – or else give a shot to another AAA outfielder. The one plus about Lambo is that his ability to play 1B frees up Rodriguez for other options.

    • Honestly, this lineup sucks. I would put Harrison in RF and Polanco in LF. I would put Walker in at 2B and Rodriguez in at 1B since, ya know, he can actually defend the position. Walker even hits better from the RH side of the plate than Hart does.

    • I expect it will happen after these 2 days in Chicago. Hart has to hit in the next days in order to keep the roster spot.

      • O for 3 and most likely will not be in the lineup tomorrow. He will get the word tomorrow. In June, Decker is hitting .340/.404/.640/1.044, 4 doubles, 3 HR’s, 10 RBI’s in about 50 AB’s.

  13. So seriously……..why hasn’t this move happened yet. You can argue someone else over Decker (although I wouldn’t) but why is Hart still on the team? In the past I’ve always felt the were a little slow in moving veterans either off the team or to the bench but they’ve been a little quicker lately. Why is Hart still on the team? It’s not the salary. He’s not signed past this year. Not the lack of replacement. Not a long time Pirate. Can’t pinch run, field or even hit. He’s got no value. None.

    • With the game in an AL park today vs. LHP, the Bucs might want that one extra RH bat – that’s the only logic I can see in it. If Hart isn’t in the lineup today, then I can’t see the sense in having waited this long.

    • I agree that the move has to be made. I don’t think that an argument can be made that the FO waits too long though. Hart has less than 50 PA this year. It is clear that he is not in the plans, but, I think he was early on. If you recall, Rodriguez started off on fire. (333 BA in April) and probably earned the playing time that may have been given to Hart otherwise keeping him on the bench. Rodriguez cooled off to 230 in May but is back to hitting 250 in June, not bad results from a guy off the bench. I think Kang has also earned more time playing IF than many may have thought and that has forced the use of Rodriguez at 1B and OF more than originally planned. Hart hasn’t performed but circumstances havent helped him. That is no reason to keep him though.

      • My comment about waiting too long was more about waiting too long in the past. They dragged their feet a little with Mercer over Barmes and anyone over Wandy for example. But the moves were made much quicker than they used to be.

  14. Agreed. And anyway, we might as well see what we have with Decker. He’s been kind of a fringe prospect since we got him, and he’s just now looking like he’s putting things together. He might be a useful 4th outfielder.

    • And another good reason. Give a look to a guy to see if he’s a AAAA player or if he belongs on the bench in the majors. Only way you’re going to find out is to give him some AB’s.

      • Well, to be honest, Jaff ain’t getting lots of ABs unless (perish the thought), one of our 3 starters go down.

        So, we probably won’t find out if he is AAAA or MLB. However, he DOES give us a PR and a Def guy. Hart is neither.

            • I do hope you werent seriously trying to use 94 as a comeback. I knew he was at 94, but thats over 3 years where he never saw any consistent playing time or hitting time. He has gotten 3 seasons of 30 game PH duties and 3-4 spot starts per year. Lambo may never be a great MLer, but it wont be because his first 95 at bats proved anything.

              He’s one of the least lucky players on the roster in terms of getting a chance to play/being healthy when his chance came.

    • As close to Snider as the Bucs can get at this point in time aka 4th outfielder. He hit in Spring Training and continued into AAA, I believe he was a first round pick – has some talent. Respect Hart but does not look good at the plate or in the field at this moment in time.

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