Monday, August 02, 2010

Brewers Re-Sign Corey Hart, Keep Their Nighttime Sunglasses

The Milwaukee Brewers looked like doofuses at the trade deadline over the weekend.

Of course, I'd like to think most of their fans were smart enough not to worry too much about it.

The Brewers are hopelessly out of the National League playoff race. There is no reason for them to continue acting as if they can make a run, because this dreadful team has no chance. They're way too inconsistent in all phases of the game -- offense, pitching, defense -- to be considered a legitimate threat to the Cincinnati Reds or St. Louis Cardinals top their division.

With three major players eligible for free agency after the 2011 season, general manager Doug Melvin had some decisions to make at the deadline. With all three positions players tied to the team for another year, though, he had no urgency.

It's understandable why the Brewers didn't deal Prince Fielder. He's going for 70 cents on the dollar no matter when they trade him, but they have a better chance of getting more value for him if they wait until after the season, when current non-contenders can be fooled into hopeless optimism for next season.

Rickie Weeks is a guy many teams will want to prove himself for another calendar year. He's having a really nice season, but he is a butcher defensively and his bat didn't start coming around until 2009. Then he got hurt and missed most of the season, making injury concerns another problem. If the Brewers want to deal Weeks, it won't be until next summer, it seems.

What about Corey Hart?

Well, the Brewers have a better idea than trading an emerging star right fielder.

They signed him to a three-year deal Monday.

While his name was being bandied about on the trade rumor mill in recent weeks, Hart repeatedly said he wanted to stay with the Brewers and sign a contract extension rather than being dealt to another club.

That wish came true Monday morning when the Brewers announced that Hart agreed to a three-year extension through the 2013 season. The deal buys out the final year of the 28-year-old right fielder’s arbitration eligibility in 2011 as well as his first two years of free agency.

No financial terms were released but the deal is probably worth close to $25 million. Hart is making $4.8 million this season, and probably would have been in line for a $6-7 million salary in 2011 after a big 2010 season.

Hart bounced back from an awful spring training and irregular playing time in the early weeks of season to put together his most productive campaign. In 92 games, he is batting .288 with 23 home runs and a team-high 72 RBI, with a .565 slugging percentage and .346 on-base percentage.

From a guy benched for his team's season opener to the best hitter they have right now ... it's quite the transformation.

This is a good move by the team. Hart is a good hitter who has found his swing this year. He'll still produce some awful at-bats from time to time, but he can be counted on to hit for power and provide some speed.

Now, it's on to Fielder and Weeks. Neither should be serious candidates for long-term deals at this point. Fielder would be stupid to sign one at this point, and Weeks probably needs to finish the year strong before his people can talk to Melvin.

The season has been a disaster in a lot of ways, but if Melvin can make the right signings, he can position Milwaukee well for the future.

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