Mariners make things official with Hart, LoMo
Newest additions are excited for 2014 season, fresh starts in Seattle
SEATTLE -- A day after wrapping up their blockbuster free-agent signing of second baseman Robinson Cano, the Mariners completed two more deals that emerged during the Winter Meetings as they finalized the signing of Corey Hart and a trade for Logan Morrison.
The two players were introduced on Friday during a news conference at Safeco Field and expressed eagerness to jump on their new opportunity. Hart missed all of last season with the Brewers following microfracture surgeries on both knees, while Morrison has missed the past two Spring Trainings due to his own knee issues that considerably reduced his playing time.
"A lot of people wrote me off because I missed a year, but it wasn't like I came off a bad year," said Hart, a two-time National League All-Star. "I was a good player that just missed time because I had an injury. I'm anxious to get out there just to prove these guys right."
Morrison didn't have a choice in his arrival, having been acquired via trade for reliever Carter Capps. But the outgoing youngster wasted no time endorsing his new situation.
"I'm so excited to be here now and getting a fresh lease on my baseball life," Morrison said. "I'm beyond ready. I wish the season started now. I've had too much of a break."
Outfielder Travis Witherspoon was designated for assignment to make room for Hart on the 40-man roster. Witherspoon is a former Angels prospect who was signed last month.
Both Hart and Morrison have played the outfield and first base, and can also share time at designated hitter with their new American League team while providing Seattle with some added offensive punch to go along with Cano.
Hart, 31, signed a one-year deal that sources say will pay him $6 million in base salary, with up to an additional $7 million in bonuses if the two-time National League All-Star can stay healthy.
The big right-hander said he's been cleared for full activity for the past six weeks and is working out well. While it might take him most of Spring Training to get his timing back, Hart vowed to be ready and said he could play today if needed.
"Microfracture is more of scary word than anything," Hart said. "It's a procedure. But it can be less harmful than the ACL and all those things. It's just different. I hurt one knee while I was rehabbing the other.
"Milwaukee had a rough year last year and they were anxious to get me back. I felt the urgency from them and pushed a little faster than I should have, and it kind of ended up biting me in the butt. But maybe it was the best thing for me because eventually I might have had to do it anyway. And this way I had both done and I won't miss two years because of it."
The Mariners sent pro scouting director Tom Allison and one of their scouts to watch Hart work out last week and general manager Jack Zduriencik feels both Hart and Morrison will be ready to split time in the outfield as well as play designated hitter and occasionally first base, if needed.
"Both guys cleared through our medical staff and we felt very comfortable with this," Zduriencik said. "It does give us some versatility. And being in the American League now with the DH for the first time is going to help both these guys."
Morrison was limited to first-base duties last season, but is now a year removed from a pair of surgeries on his right patellar tendon and says he's full go for outfield work.
"I came back last year I still had aches and pains, but now I don't really feel that," Morrison said. "It's been 15 months now and I feel great. Putting the surgeries behind me and moving to a new team, it's like a figurative flipping of the page and starting a new chapter."
Hart, who hit 30 home runs and had 83 RBIs in 2012, will provide a needed right-handed bat to the Mariners' lefty-centric lineup and some protection behind Cano, provided he's able to return at full strength.
Morrison is a man with intriguing potential and a huge Twitter following as one of baseball's more-colorful characters.
Upon arriving in the Northwest on Thursday for his physical, Morrison tweeted: "I'm excited to be here in Seattle. After all every King needs a jester in his court!"
I'm excited to be here in Seattle. After all every King needs a jester in his court!— Logan Morrison (@LoMoMarlins) December 13, 2013
As soon as Friday's news conference was over, Morrison changed his Twitter handle from @LoMoMarlins to @CupOfLoMo in deference to Seattle's coffee culture.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Morrison hit .242/.333/.375 with six home runs and 36 RBIs in 85 games last year while playing strictly at first base. But prior to his knee problems, the Kansas City native was one of the Marlins' top-rated prospects and hit 23 home runs with 72 RBIs and a .247/.330/.468 line in 2011 while playing 125 games as the club's left fielder.
Morrison is arbitration eligible for the first time this year and won't be eligible for free agency until 2017. And, no, after playing in spacious Marlins Park, the left-handed hitter isn't worried about his numbers suffering at Safeco.
"You see where I just came from?" he said. "That doesn't concern me at all. [Marlins Park] has 13-foot high fences, 392 to right-center, 490 thousand feet to center. You know what I mean? Neither one of them is a hitter's paradise, so I don't really worry about it."
His only experience in Seattle was in 2012 when the Marlins played at Safeco Field as the home team in a three-game series after their own field was booked for a concert.
"I played for the home team then, too, so it's not a change," Morrison said with a grin. "Except for, well, maybe it is the same thing. We were getting heckled at home then and we were getting heckled here, too."
Hart is a more-proven commodity as a career .276 hitter with 154 home runs and 508 RBIs in nine seasons with the Brewers, who drafted him while Zduriencik headed the team's scouting department.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound slugger was an All-Star in 2008 and '10 and averaged 29 home runs and 83 RBIs in his last three seasons before sitting out 2013.
Hart has never played in Safeco Field and had never been to Seattle before signing, but said he wasn't worried about being a right-handed hitter in a park that moved its left-field fences in last year.
"I went out and looked around and it didn't look any different," he said. "Maybe right-center was pretty deep. But for me, if I hit it well, they tend to go out wherever we're playing."
New manager Lloyd McClendon said it's too early to say exactly where his new additions will fit in defensively, but he's happy to have the potential of a couple bigger bats.
"We got two quality players that are very versatile," the skipper said. "And we have a DH situation that will be rotational. That gives us the opportunity to keep everybody healthy. It's a unique dynamic. We'll sit down and figure out how it all works in Spring Training. But when you have quality players, that's a good problem to have."