Corey Hart was finally medicallycleared to resume baseball activities on December 3. Teams have already been checking in on him and with the Winter Meetings beginning next week I expect his market to develop quickly. I actually think he’ll sign some time before the meetings are over so I wanted to explore what his contract would look like if he were to re-sign with the Brewers.
I think Mike Napoli is a perfect comp for Hart. Here is what they did from 2010 through 2012
Hart: 277/344/509, 56 home runs, 130 wRC+
Napoli: 279/379/552, 54 home runs, 147 wRC+
In 2013 Napoli had a 3 year $39 million deal in place with the Red Sox before something in his medicals tanked that. He ended up signing an incentive laden oneyear deal. The base was for $5 million with another $8 million in incentives. Napoli was slightly better offensively and Hart is a year younger, but the big difference here is that Hart has missed an entire year with knee injuries. He’s still going to get paid though and with the way salaries are rising I expect Hart’s deal (after incentives) will be close to the $13 million mark reached by Napoli. Corey has stated that he will be willing to take a discount to stay in Milwaukee but I think if he does it won’t be for much. I actually think it’s more likely that he agrees to defer payment for the incentives reached, to a later date. It makes sense for the Brewers and there is precedent for it.
Some people have suggested that with all the interest from other teams, for the Brewers to get him, they’ll have to include a team or vesting option for a second year at market price. I think this would serve as a deterrent. Hart is getting older and is probably only going to get one more multi-year deal before his career is over. If he takes that second year he hits free agency when he’s 34 instead of 33. He would also be giving up an opportunity to cash in next offseason. Look at it this way:
Best-case Scenario 1: Hart signs a 1 year incentive laden deal w/option. Hart has a good season and the option vests. He makes $13 million in each year of his two years. He enters free agency at 34.
Best-case Scenario 2: Hart signs a 1 year incentive laden deal. Hart has a good season. He makes $13 million. He enters free agency at 33.
Worst-case Scenario 1: Hart signs a 1 year incentive laden deal w/option. Hart has a bad year and the team declines his option or they don’t allow it to vest. He enters free agency at 33 coming off a bad year.
Worst-case Scenario 2: Hart signs a 1 year incentive laden deal. Hart has a bad year. He enters free agency at 33 coming off a bad year.
The second best-case scenario carries the best chance for Hart to make the most money. He enters free agency a year younger than in scenario 1 coming off a good year. In scenario 2 he needs to have two good years to allow him the opportunity to get a multi-year deal in free agency. Both worst-case scenarios are essentially the same except that in scenario 1 Hart maybe gets another $500,000 from a buyout. The only way an option makes sense is if it’s a player option. That way Hart decides what he wants to do. There is a lot of risk inherent in that option, and I’m not sure the Brewers would do that. I really don’t think any team is going to go past 1 guaranteed year for Hart, so there’s no reason the Brewers have to.
Ultimately I think Hart signs a 1 year deal with the Brewers. It’ll have a relatively low base salary around $5-6 million, perhaps with some of it deferred. It’ll also include incentives that are reached based on games played and plate appearances that will allow him to make another $6-8 million, also possibly deferred.