As Tom Haudricourt first reported, Brewers injured first baseman/right fielder Corey Hart would be willing to take a "greatly reduced salary" to stay with the Brewers. Hart, of course, has missed all of the 2013 season after surgery on his right knee.
Here are some quotes from Hart in Haudricourt's story for the Journal-Sentinel:
"We haven’t had any discussions. I’ve told them numerous times that if I was healthy I’d like to stay a Brewer and help this team out. They have a lot of good young players but they need a veteran presence. I’d like to be one of those guys. They want it; I just don’t know where that’s at."
"They’ve kind of hinted (they have interest) but it’s early, and coming off two knee surgeries I’m sure they want to see me get out there and run first before they actually talk to me.They want to make sure I can do the stuff I need to do, which I’ll be able to do. It’s a process. Can I run and do the cuts I need to do. Hopefully, they’ll see enough and keep me."
"I told them I would be very generous to stay here. I wouldn’t sit there and ask for anything outlandish. I’d definitely take a discount to stay here because I think I owe it to them to stay here and be a cheaper player."
"Nobody wants to play for free but I basically sat there and watched all season. I owe it to them and the fans to come back at a cheaper price. That’s kind of what we’re hoping for but at the same time I don’t know what’s going to happen."
"I’m pretty optimistic that I’ll be back"
Hart is being paid $10 million this season by the Brewers while sitting out due to his injury. It's refreshing to hear a player say that he feels he owes something to the team, though saying the right things and actually doing them are two different things. It's hard to imagine Hart going against that, however, partly because no team is likely to offer him any sort of outlandish deal when he hits free agency in the offseason.
Hart is going to be 32 next year and has two bum knees. A guy like that is no sure thing to come back and be the player he was before. It may be well worth the risk to sign a guy who hit 87 home runs from 2010-2012 with an 857 OPS. How much of a risk will depend on exactly how much of a discount Hart will take.
Obviously, Hart didn't give any specific numbers to reporters on what he might be looking for in the financials of a new contract. Why would he? Hart isn't a "minor league contract flier" kind of guy, though, and he has made good money the past few years. I have no idea what Hart believes "greatly reduced" entails. I think it's likely that he'll take a low-ish base salary with plenty of incentives.
If the Brewers do bring Hart back, it will help give the team a nice amount of depth. With Hart at (presumably) first base and Ryan Braun back in left field, all of a sudden the Brewers have nowhere for guys like Khris Davis, Caleb Gindl, or Logan Schafer to play. All three of those guys have impressed on some level this season, with Davis possibly pushing for a starting spot post-2013.
If the Brewers do want to compete next year (and, let's be honest, with this team's management they will want to compete), bringing Hart back is a no-brainer provided he's healthy enough to play. I believe in Khris Davis, but if the Brewers are going out to win, they shouldn't. Hitting well (hitting really well [hitting like oh my god I was totally right suckers]) over a 51 game span shouldn't be quite enough to go all in on a player who, like it or not, came into the year with question marks about what he could really do. So moving the defensively-challenged Davis or Ryan Braun to first base is not the absolute best option.
Otherwise, with Hart back, that could give the Brewers the freedom to really shop Norichika Aoki. They wouldn't get a huge haul for him or anything, but Doug Melvin can be a magician with trades. That would also free up room in the outfield for one of the young guns to get playing time.
Hart may not be the absolute ideal, but he's a pretty damn good option at first. Especially with a significant discount. I'd throw in an extra million if he personally threw Yuniesky Betancourt's butt over the state line Uncle Phil/DJ Jazzy Jeff style.