SEATTLE — There were no commemorative T-shirts or a multiplatinum rap superstar in attendance, but the Mariners officially announced a pair of previously reported roster moves — the signing of free-agent outfielder/first baseman Corey Hart and the trade for first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison — on Friday with another news conference at Safeco Field.
While the moves don’t quite register as high as Robinson Cano on the baseball buzz scale, they are key additions to a Mariners roster in dire need of offensive production.
“We are very familiar with these players and we’ve coveted them for a while,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “We think these two guys will be integral parts to where we are going as a team.”
Hart signed a one-year deal with a base salary of
$6 million. With performance bonuses, it could go up to $13 million.
“I’m excited to be part of a good young club,” Hart said. “Any time you are looking for a club, you want to make sure it’s going in the right direction.”
Hart missed all of the 2013 season because of knee issues. He had surgery in March to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. During his recovery from that surgery, he injured his left knee and was forced to have season-ending surgery on July 3 to repair a chondral defect.
He received complete medical clearance two weeks ago but has been working out fully for the past six weeks. The Mariners had scouts at several of those workouts in Arizona.
“If the season started today, I could play,” Hart said. “I’ve been rehabbing nonstop. I will start going to the complex and hitting with those guys. When we start up, there will be no reason to sit down. I’ll be able to go full speed.”
The Mariners desperately need outfield help. Hart played mostly first base in 2012 after a teammate got hurt. He hit .270 with 30 homers and 83 runs batted in that season. He doesn’t consider going back to the outfield a problem despite the knee issues.
“Realistically I could play five days a week out there,” he said. “I would have thought less a while back, but I dropped a lot of weight and when I started running I realized that I wasn’t in as good of shape before. My knees have held up. They will be stronger than they’ve been before.”
Morrison, who was acquired for reliever Carter Capps, understands what Hart went through after battling his own knee problems the past three years. He had surgery on his right knee after the 2011 season. He made the mistake of rushing back to play early in the 2012 season. The knee didn’t heal properly. By July, it became such a problem that he was shut down. He had surgery to repair a damaged patella tendon in September 2012. He started the 2013 season on the 60-day disabled list and finally got on the field in June. He appeared in 85 games, hitting .242 with six homers and 36 RBI.
“For me, I’m so grateful to be here,” Morrison said. “I feel like I have a new lease on my baseball life. I’m very excited. I’m healthy. I’ve been able to hit and work out in the offseason for the first time in three years, and I will be able play in a springtraining game for the first time in two years.”
Morrison believes a healthy offseason and a full spring training will help him bounce back.
“Talking with other guys that have been through it, they said you don’t really know how much you miss spring training until you don’t have one and I have missed the last two,” he said. “Just being able to get in the weight room and not having to do 80-year-old-lady leg exercises and getting to do squats is big.”
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon didn’t specify how he’d use Hart, Morrison and incumbent first baseman Justin Smoak.
“We’ve got two quality players that are very versatile,” McClendon said. “We have a DH spot that will be very rotational, so that gives us an opportunity to keep everybody healthy and rested. It’s a unique dynamic. We’ll sit down at spring training and figure out how it works. But when you have quality players, that’s a good problem to have.”