Gauging the market for hitters

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It wasn't a huge day at Major League Baseball's winter meetings, but there was enough activity to create a ripple effect. Hot Stove moves rarely exist in a vacuum, so every trade or free-agent signing is destined to have repercussions for players who are next in the pecking order.

The Seattle Mariners, who've been quite adept at making news this offseason, continued to reshape their lineup with a pair of transactions Wednesday. They signed former Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Corey Hart to a one-year, guaranteed $6 million deal, with incentives that could bring the total package to $13 million. And they traded reliever Carter Capps to Miami for first baseman Logan Morrison, who had unofficially lost his job when the Marlins signed free agent Garrett Jones.

Hart and Morrison both arrive in Seattle accompanied by questions. Hart is coming off two knee surgeries that forced him to miss the entire 2013 season. Morrison's slugging percentage has dipped from .468 to .399 to .375 over the past three years, and he hit only six home runs in 293 at-bats in 2013.

Since neither move is official and has yet to be confirmed by the Mariners, it's uncertain precisely where the new arrivals fit on the lineup card and in the field. But a baseball source said the Mariners are hoping that Hart can split time between the outfield and at designated hitter in 2014. As for Morrison, he slots in at first base with the occasional turn at DH.

The Hart and Morrison acquisitions were complementary moves in the grand scheme of things, but they helped nudge the winterlong musical chairs extravaganza another step or two closer to a conclusion. Moving forward, here's where things stand with some other hitters who could be affected:

Nelson Cruz

Even after signing Robinson Cano and bringing Hart and Morrison into the fold, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik doesn't appear ready to close the door on upgrades to an offense that ranked 12th in the American League with 624 runs scored. The Mariners have been ardent Cruz pursuers from the start of the winter, and one baseball source said they'll continue to be in the mix for him.

Cruz has a few other potential landing sites. The Texas Rangers would like to bring him back on a two- or three-year deal, and the Baltimore Orioles could use an impact bat in left field.'s Jayson Stark has also speculated that the Kansas City Royals could jump into the fray if they trade Billy Butler for pitching. But that's a complicated, long-shot scenario at best.

Estimates of Cruz's payout have been all over the map. Could the Mariners go to five years and $75 million for him? Troll the lobby at the winter meetings, and you'll find people who think Cruz could land a deal comparable to Curtis Granderson's four-year, $60 million contract with the Mets. Given Cruz's age and production, that might not be out of whack.

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