After the mind blowing acquisition of Robinson Cano, pretty much everyone in the Mariners world had said that the next move Uncle Jack needed to make was to find some outfielders. It makes complete sense, Raul Ibanez and Franklin Gutierrez probably won’t be back next year, and there’s a plethora of talented guys still available through trades of free agency.
There is no doubt in my mind that the person who took this the hardest was Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak, who is now a major question mark for 2014. Both Hart and Morrison have spent considerable time at first due to injuries over the last few seasons.
The first base log-jam aside, what do these two signings mean for the 2014 Mariners? Rumors are still rampant that the Mariners will be signing Nelson Cruz, and there are still some Mariners available for trade too (Smoak and Jesus Montero being the most recent names).
What exactly does this do for the Seattle Mariners outfield? What kind of lineup are we going to see in 2014? There are a lot of potential iterations that could emerge. I find it hard to believe that the M’s would sign Hart and trade for Morrison without the intention of putting one or both of them in the outfield, so who will be joining them next spring?
Hart and Morrison:
First, how feasible is it for both of these guys to play next year? The major concern right now is that both Morrison and Hart are coming off of some knee issues.
Corey Hart didn’t play at all in 2013 due to surgery on both knees, a meniscus tear in the left in late 2012, and damaged cartilage in the right in 2013. What this means is that Hart has been off the field for over a year due to two separate injuries. It’s obviously going to take some time for Hart to get back in the groove, if he ever does. Luckily for the Mariners, his $13MM deal is heavily laden with incentives, so if he can’t (or doesn’t) perform, then he won’t be excessively expensive.
Logan Morrison is coming off of knee problems of his own. After missing the second half of 2012 and the first half of 2013, he was relegated to first base on his return. Presumably because he simply lost the mobility he once had as a left fielder.
That being said, Morrison held a fielding percentage of .996 in 2013 as a first baseman (Smoak: .995), so by no means is Morrison a defensive liability in the field.
As such, the 2013 Mariners first base depth chart appears to have three names tied to it, which is a few too many.
One way to resolve this would be put one, or both of Hart and Morrison into the outfield. They both came up to the league as corner outfielders, and Corey Hart has tried to put the idea of him being too injury prone to play to bed.
“Realistically I could play five days a week out there,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.” – Corey Hart
Surely Jack and Company intended Hart to play a major role in the outfield, and it seems like Hart thinks he’s up to the challenge.
Logan Morrison too wants to be ready to play in 2013. A versatile first baseman/corner outfielder like Morrison is going to be incredibly valuable to the Mariners as they move forward.
Hart and Morrison will be question marks until opening day. As much as Hart seems to think he’ll be ready to play 5 days a week in the outfield, I’ll have to see it to believe it. Knee injuries can be nagging and lingering. Realistically, I expect that we will see Morrison and Hart split time in left/right and the DH spot. Though if Smoak is traded before then we would see an OF/1B split between the two of them.
This is the biggest question mark for the 2014 Mariners outfield, but by no means is that the end of the outfield questions. There are still two open spots out there, and the Mariners need to decide how they are going to fill them.