This year's winter meetings were very slow. The Mariners turned out to be one of the most active teams, thanks to a pair of deals today. I don't have much time to write, and thought I would touch on Geoff Baker's damning report before anything else Mariners, but the M's are just doing too much too fast right now for me to keep up. So I'll stay focused on today's moves.
Mariners sign Corey Hart to the Mike Napoli deal - Hart has a one-year deal with a $6 million base that can jack up to $13 million with incentives. It's very similar to what Mike Napoli signed with the Red Sox last year. Hart is a mediocre contact hitter with limited on-base skills, but he's got real good power. Perhaps that sounds like Mike Morse all over again, but Hart has a longer track record of success and didn't cost John Jaso.* Instead, Hart costs money, which might now grow on trees with the Root sports acquisition. I'm a big fan of the Corey Hart deal, particularly with the way it is structured. If Hart hits dingers he gets paid, and he should get paid if he can jack the ball out of Safeco.
*Jaso admittedly had his own deficiencies as a player, but was the M's best hitter the lone season he was with them. The Mariners actually had the audacity to say they traded Jaso in an effort to improve the offense. They really, honestly believed that.
Mariners trade Carter Capps for Logan Morrison - In general I'm okay with this deal too. Capps has a great arm and supposedly some really bad luck. His home run rate seems unsustainable. However, he's also a young player that throws a ton of fastballs in most counts with somewhat limited command. Capps could figure a few things out and become very, very good. He could also stay a flame-thrower without much further growth. In return, the Mariners get a former top hitting prospect - former because, quite franky, LoMo hasn't done a ton of hitting the last few seasons. That's thanks in part to a few knee operations. His knee is apparently healthy, and hopefully that's true. I also hope the knee zapped some of Morrison's power. He is a bit of a reclamation project, though still young. Ultimately, the M's had bullpen depth and I will take a hitter with upside over a reliever with upside.
The Hart and LoMo deals together worry me though. Both Hart and Morrison have outfield experience, but neither should play in the outfield. They might both be best at DH, and play first base if they must take the field. That's where they compete with Justin Smoak as well. There should be 1,200-1,400 plate appearances between both first base and DH, so splitting the time three ways might not be so bad. There are enough plate appearances to go around, particularly because I'm not sold on either Smoak or Morrison as an everyday player at the moment.
These are the Mariners though, and they deployed such "defenders" as Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez, and Jason Bay in the outfield last season. I doubt they'll have any qualms placing Morrison or Hart in the outfield, in the process taking away a good portion of their value. It would be very Mariners of them and also would explain why they are reportedly turning down teams asking about Smoak.
All I'll say is that the Mariners better not be done. It doesn't look like they will go after Shin-Soo Choo simply because he is left-handed, which is a shame. Nick Franklin is supposedly going to be a utility player, which again, would be a shame. Hopefully they are doing some bluffing to try to build leverage for some trades. A starting pitcher and center fielder would be nice.