April 23, 2014

Hafner Heads East…..PEACE

travis-hafnerTravis 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.

  • boomhauertjs

    How about Carlos Lee instead?

  • thepaledragon

    I’m surprisingly unmoved by this news. I’m kind of disappointed because I hate all things Yankees anyway, but I’m not too worried about Hafner having a huge resurgence. Good luck to Travis, just not when he’s playing us.

  • mgbode

    First, hitting with guys on base and in scoring position is largely random (and over time should go to hitting norms). he had career worsts last season, but he was great at them in 2011. therefore, I call BS on that being an indicator.

    2011 BA/OBP/SLG
    Men-On-Base: .359/.444/.552
    RISP .383/.485/.667

    the Tribe moved on because he couldn’t stay healthy and they were worried he wouldn’t be healthy enough to contribute in 2013. it is the only thing that makes sense and is completely rational. I’m okay with it, though unless one of the minor leaguers is able to replace his hitting, I think we made a mistake.

  • matt underwood

    meh, im over it. no big deal.

  • mgbode

    we were left-hand hitting dominant last season, but now we have almost fully reversed course. we actually need a DH/pinch-hitter to hit RHP.

    that said, i’d rather get Lee than noone though.

  • Natedawg86

    We he gets zoned back in, he will be tough. I think he will have a good season this year. I was excited about some of the guys we had like Canzler and Neal, but will find someone else to get excited about.

  • Robbie

    I don’t even find it worth scratching my head about. One year, $1.1 million contract for the Yankees? Yawn…

  • mgbode

    good chances it’ll start with a “Mc”

    i’m banking on McDade

  • Steve

    I still don’t get the anti-Pronk sentiment. People would rather have Aviles/Marson/Gomes in the lineup everyday because Pronk won’t stay healthy, meaning we’d have to play . . . Aviles/Marson/Gomes.

    80 games of Hafner’s 120 OPS+ is better than whatever the plan at DH is right now, which won’t change in the 80 games that he doesn’t play.

  • nj0

    RISP? Really? Sample size!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I’m on board for Jim Thome… he may have injury issues and the same fear of left-handed pitchers that Hafner does, but he’s been a model of consistency rocking an OPS+ over 100 in every season since 1993 (with the exception of an injury-plagued 2005).

  • The Astute Linguist

    Bring back the Thominator so I can get the jersey I should have bought in the nineties. It will guarantee this season’s success.

  • nj0

    Amen. Travis Hafner hate reveals much about the way the human mind works.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Totally agree… with that said, I will never understand how 2 guys who do nothing but hit baseballs and jog around the bases can manage to injure themselves so often.

  • brickfrenzy

    This, heavens yes.

  • nj0

    That is a good question.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Not hate at least not here more frustration, boredom and being tired of guys who are elevated to being more then what they are because they play in Cleveland. Kinda like Daniel Gibson. Although I will say Hafner at least produced, for a couple of years, unlike Gibson who basically made a career with the Cavaliers based off of one playoff series verse the Pistons.

  • Steve

    That’s exactly what he’s talking about. We’re frustrated that Hafner isn’t what we hoped he would be in 2012 (or since 2008 to be completely accurate), and put that frustration ahead of logically figuring out what the best alternatives are.

    It’s like a little kid who refuses to eat dinner because you didn’t take him to McDonald’s.

  • http://twitter.com/CTownPride Steve Jackman

    Just FYI, it appears Hafner’s deal is a little larger than originally reported…

    Dennis Manoloff
    Source: Travis Hafner’s deal with #Yankees is one year for $2 million guaranteed with $4 million in performance bonuses. Pending physical.

  • nj0

    Thanks for illustrating my point. The fans don’t elevate Hafner. They do the opposite, letting their anger over his contract cloud their opinions so much that they fail to notice that, even when only playing part time, he is an effective offensive player.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    It’s kinda hard to elevate someone who has been irrelevant for more then three seasons hence my Gibson comparison. I guess we just have a different definition of “effective” is all. The truly sad part is that the Indians didn’t have an alternative and still don’t.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I think alot of people, myself included, were/are just tired of debating his relevance. For that reason “we” didn’t care if he left.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    A third of the lineup is comprised of switch-hitters (Swisher, Cabrera and Santana) so I would tend to think the lineup is actually pretty balanced.

  • mgbode

    fair enough, let’s go through the list.

    Santana better from the left side (though closer last year)
    Asdrubal better from the left side
    Swisher’s is balanced though power is usually from the right (2011 was opposite though)

    Stubbs is R
    Reynolds is R
    Brantley is L
    Chisenhall is L
    Kipnis is L

    So, of the expected regulars, we have 3-L, 2-R, and 3-S with 2 of those being better from L and the other pretty balanced. Despite adding 3 guys who are best from the right, we are still tilting left a little.

    so nevermind, and thank you for making me go back through that exercise.

  • nj0

    Since 09, WARs of….

    1.3, 2.1, 1.3, 0.7

    In 2010, he was our second most valuable player despite only playing 118 games.

    That’s who he is – an injury prone player who was a solid addition to the lineup when healthy. The fact that you see that as irrelevant just continues to support my original revelation about the human mind.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Long way for you to drive in an attempt to be right huh? I stick to my response. Have a nice day!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    2009 and 2010 like I said irrelevant for more then three seasons. As for your last comment I’m going to let it go because frankly I’m not in the mood to verbally spar but just know this, your barking up the wrong tree junior. Have a nice day!

  • mgbode

    ?? I admitted that I was wrong on my initial comment. I even showed my work. Can I at least get partial credit?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’m breaking my rule by responding after my sign off because it’s all good, bad day frankly it doesn’t matter. For some reason though I get the feeling Hafner will play in more games in 2013 then he has the last five and probably do well too. I blame living in Cleveland!

  • mgbode

    no worries. hope your weekend goes better than your Friday.

  • nj0

    Not trying to pick a fight. Apologies if it came across that way. Just saying that I think you are way too down on Hafner for all the wrong reasons. Is he great? No. Good? Maybe not even that. Bad? Not at all.

  • DCTribeFan

    Canzler got DFAed for Hafner. So he’s out there again. I know Anonetti is playing the “40 man shuffle”, but I hope they pick up Canzler again and keep him this time. I’d love to see what he puts up with about 400 ABs. And the rationale that “we DFAed him because we thought he’d be the one to get through waivers” has now been proven false twice. Why isn’t Tomlin inactive so there’s a spot for him? Or Blake Wood?