Travis Hafner…Travis Hafner….Travis Hafner…. adios my friend. Twitter was abuzz yesterday when word came down that our old friend Pronk had finally found a home. I fully expected him to end up in either Oakland or Tampa Bay, considering their recent history of DH’s. But instead, Hafner will sign a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the New York Yankees.
The New York Yankees?
Yes, that same franchise that has 27 World Series titles is continuing their collection of past their prime, mid to late thirties, big bats. They are like The Duke’s – trying to corner the market. But unlike in the classic movie Trading Places, nobody wants to “get in on it.”
No George Costanza is not behind this move. GM Brian Cashman has signed off on this one himself. I’m not sure what it is about the Indians that Cashman is so enamored with, but between Hafner, Russ Canzler, Thomas Neal, and Jerad Head, Cashman is collecting Tribe scraps. You know what they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
The Yankees had a need for a left-handed designated hitter and it took them until the last day in January to make a signing. They have moved on from Raul Ibanez and are taking a flier on a 35-year old who hasn’t played in more than 118 games in five years and in four of these five seasons, he hasn’t made it to triple digits.
I know the Tribe still would like to add another bat, preferably one who hits from the left side. I also know some of you Tribe fans would have loved a Pronk reunion tour, but let’s be honest here. It’s time to move on. It was time to move on before last season, but the Tribe still was on the hook for his $13 million salary. Nobody wanted him at the trade deadline because, naturally, Hafner wasn’t healthy.
Pronk’s inability to stay in the lineup is one of many reasons the Indians did not bring him back. His shoulder is an issue. His elbow is an issue. His back is an issue. All of these various ailments have sapped him of his power. I know he has slugged over .440 in four of the past five seasons, but his statistics with runners on base (.161/.265/.533) and runners in scoring position (.128/.237/.404) in 2012 – his contract year, were career worsts and atrocious.
Hafner certainly had his moments here – The walk-off RBI single in Game Two of the 2007 ALDS against the Yankees and his walkoff homer against Toronto in 2011 when the Tribe trailed 4-0 heading into the ninth come to mind. Click here for perhaps Tommy Hamilton’s greatest call as an Indians play by play man.
To a man, everyone will tell you they love Travis Hafner, the person. He’s a bumpkin of sorts, a nice, sort of unworldly and naive type. He is Mr. WWE. Since Victor Martinez was sent to Boston, there has been a void in the clubhouse leadership department in Cleveland. Hafner was the most senior of all Tribe players, yet he never stepped forward. It’s just not in his nature to be that guy, and that is OK. But the 2013 Cleveland Indians are still a young team looking for a veteran to take the lead.
Nick Swisher is here and he has been a great clubhouse presence in his previous stops. He has never had the chance to be “the man,” and the excitement he has shown in his press conference and subsequent interviews illustrates he is ready to step forward as that leader. But there needs to be more.
Terry Francona knows this. He would love another seasoned veteran and respected voice to come on board to potentially take some of those DH at bats. However, he clearly had no interest in dusting off ole’ Pronk for another go ’round. Make no mistake, Francona has a major say in his roster, and if he thought Hafner was the guy, he’d have been re-signed by now. Instead, Travis is headed to the Bronx.
My man Jon Steiner, our resident sabermetrician, says the Indians absolutely cannot go into the season without another bat to man at least a portion of the DH spot. He is not down with a full-time “Aviles Plan” the way I am. He was a Pronk Proponent. So now that Hafner is off the board, if the Indians feel as though they have to add another stick, there is only one place to turn.
There is a left-handed, veteran power bat out there. He is a known clubhouse leader and one of the most respected players in the game. He is a man who grew up in the Indians organization, gets what the city is all about, and would be a draw to the nostalgic-for-the-90s fan base.
You know who I am talking about. Number 25. Jim Thome.