Mariners bring two more sluggers into the fold

SEATTLE — Corey Hart and Logan Morrison came to Seattle from different teams — Hart from the Milwaukee Brewers, Morrison the Florida Marlins. And they became mariners by different methods — Hart via free agency, Morrison via trade

Still, it was appropriate that the two sluggers sat side-by-side to be introduced as the newest members of the Mariners.

In Morrison and Hart, the Mariners acquired two players they hope can join Robinson Cano in bolstering their lineup; and in a fresh start with the Mariners, both Hart and Morrison hope to show that their recent injury troubles are a thing of the past and that they are ready to again be productive players.

Morrison, once a top prospect who showed promise in his first two Major League seasons before being limited by injuries the past two years, was acquired in a trade that sent reliever Carter Capps to Miami. Hart, a two-time All-Star who missed the entire 2013 season because of surgery on both knees, is a relatively low-risk acquisition, having signed an incentive-laden one-year deal.

The pair could upgrade the lineup considerably if they can stay healthy and the Mariners are betting, though not a lot, that both Hart and Morrison will have bounce-back years.

“”Certainly when you’re getting players coming back from injury, there’s a degree of caution and sometimes it affects the type of contract that a player signs,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “In (Hart’s) case, it’s a contract that has incentives attached to it. … With Logan, it’s a very similar scenario. He had some issues, and that’s why he was available. We gave up a very, very good piece in Carter (Capps), who we think is a great guy who had upside, but it was important to try to maybe roll the dice a little bit on two guys bouncing back.”

Hart, 31, was an All-Star with the Brewers in 2008 and 2010, and had 20 or more home runs in five of six seasons from 2007-2012, including 30 or more twice. Hart’s career on base plus slugging percentage (.825) is better than any Mariner produced last season. His knee injuries made him a relative bargain, albeit one who comes with risk, on the free agent market.

Morrison, 26, has gone into the past two seasons injured, missing spring training both years, slowing the development of a once-promising career. Both Hart and Morrison are eager to show they can get back to being the players they were when healthy.

“I don’t want people to forget that I’m a good player,” Hart said. “I’m anxious to get out there and prove these guys right for believing in me enough to bring me here. Hopefully, it’s the start of a long relationship.”

For Morrison, being traded to Seattle is like having “a new lease on my baseball life.”

“I’m very excited, healthy,” he said. “I’ve been able to hit and work out (in the offseason) for the first time in three years. I’ll be playing in a spring training game for the first time in two years, so I’m ready to go.”

Hart spent most of his career playing right field, then played primarily first base in 2012. He said he is in better shape than he was before the injuries, and is ready to play outfield if that’s what the Mariners ask of him. Morrison also went from being primarily an outfielder to playing first base after returning from his own knee injury last season. He, too, said he is ready to play anywhere.

How the two will fit in with the Mariners will be worked out in spring training, manager Lloyd McClendon said. The likely scenario is a rotation between first base, outfield and designated hitter for the pair, both Zduriencik and McClendon said.

Despite the addition of these two players, there is still room for Justin Smoak in the 1B/DH rotation, Zduriencik said.

“You open up today, Justin’s your first baseman,” Zduriencik said. “You look at Logan as a DH, maybe in the outfield. You look at Corey in the outfield, DH, first base. I think it will be beneficial to all of them.”

In signing Cano to a massive deal, the Mariners took a pretty significant financial risk with long-term ramifications. The additions of Hart and Morrison also come with risk, but in this case it is tied to health.

If the Mariners hit on these moves, they expect significant improvement out of the 2014 lineup.

“We’re better,” McClendon said. “We’re more experienced, we have guys who have knowledge of the major leagues, and they’re very quality, high-character guys as far as leadership skills are concerned. But more importantly, they can play. We’re a better club than we were three weeks ago, and I’m probably a better manager than I was three weeks ago.”

To make room on the 40-man roster for Hart, outfielder Travis Witherspoon was designated for assignment.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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