2014 Statistics: 255 PA, .203 /.271/.319, 6 HR, 70 wRC+, -1.2 fWAR
2015 Age: 33
Position: Right-handed first baseman and right fielder
Last offseason the Mariners took a risk on a buy-low candidate that would hopefully put a spark in their listless offense: Corey Hart. Even though he missed all of the 2013 season with a micro-fracture (knee) surgery, Seattle's front office was still pretty confident that he could return to form in 2014. Even if he got close to his .278 True Average in 2012, that would be a huge success given his deal was only one year and $6 million. And one year later, one can confidently say that the deal was a failure. Hart hit a dismal .203/.271/.319 (70 wRC+) with just six home runs in 68 games. He missed most of the season due to a thigh strain and knee contusion (same knee that was operated on), and he was below-replacement level when he was on the field.
But even so, there is cause for optimism. Sure, he'll probably be relegated to the infield in the future now that his knee and increasing age will give him the defense of a tortoise on NyQuil, but he could still provide some value with the stick. If we take a quick look at his batted ball data:
We can see (although the 2014 sample is small), that his tendencies are not that all different, even though the lack of opposite field hits may come as a cause for some concern. His BABIP of .244 is certainly not of the sustainable variety, and I would assume that that would improve should he remain healthy.
The obvious question mark with Hart is his knee. Knee surgery is tricky business, and we've seen excellent players emerge differently: you have your Grady Sizemores, your Victor Martinezes, and your Joe Mauers. A good example of what Hart faces in the future is more akin to Mauer and Martinez; for players not dependent on their legs to survive, bat-first hitters may be able to not only extend their careers after their surgery, but thrive. Granted, that does include the limiting defensive appearances, but it's something.
I doubt that Corey Hart is the solution to the many woes that faced the 2014 Yankees, and I don't think the team needs another first base/corner outfield-type player. But with that being said, I don't think the idea of Hart is terrible as insurance. The primary backup for Mark Teixeira, as of now, is Alex Rodriguez. After that, it's Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. Having a non-first baseman covering first base because it's "just first base" is not only problematic for defensive purposes, but also because the aforementioned can't be relied upon to cover the position given their own injury concerns. On a minor league deal with incentive bonuses, a Corey Hart could be intriguing at best and brief at worst.