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Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Hot Stove Talk: Corey Hart

By Richard Durrett

Note: This is part of our Hot Stove Talk series, which profiles free agents and looks at possible trades the Texas Rangers could make this offseason.

Today's player: Corey Hart

The 31-year-old right-handed hitter (he turns 32 in March) comes into free agency with nothing on his resume from 2013 except knee surgeries. He had microfracture surgery on his right knee in 2012 and was expected to miss the first part of the 2013 season. But his other knee gave him issues, as well, and surgery on that one ended any chance of returning last year.

In a free-agent market thin on power, Hart can give a prospective team some pop. He has 87 homers in his last three healthy seasons (2010-2012), an average of 29 per season. He's had an OPS of .844 or better in each of those three seasons and averaged nearly 83 RBIs per season.

Hart will need to show that he's healthy, so he isn't going to command a long-term contract. Hart told ESPN.com Jim Bowden that the Red Sox, Rockies and Rays, among other teams, have shown some interest in him.

Why he makes sense: If the Rangers lose right-handed hitting Nelson Cruz, the power of Hart would certainly help this lineup. The Rangers haven't hesitated since Jon Daniels became general manager in taking chances on injured players. In Hart's case, there was no qualifying offer, so he won't cost a draft pick to sign. Maybe he gets something in the $6 to $8 million range with some incentives that could boost the deal?

Why he doesn't make sense: Hart is open to playing the outfield, but can he do that well after the knee surgeries? If not, he slots in at first base and DH only. That limits the options that manager Ron Washington would have with him. And there's always the risk that he won't stay healthy. Remember Lance Berkman? This has some similarities.

Bottom line: Should the club fail to land Brian McCann or re-sign Cruz, Hart could be a nice option on a one-year deal. But that depends on the medicals and how the Rangers feel about those knees. I'm only doing it if it's a cheap deal with lots of incentives. The Rangers aren't going to hand Hart $11 million guaranteed like they did Berkman. So if nothing else pops and Hart is willing to take a deal that allows him to make more money based on games played, it's worth exploring.