Can Travis Hafner earn his contract?
In 2006, Travis Hafner was an awesome hitter. Underrated at the time, but very comparable to Boston’s own David Ortiz. Both were immobile and position-less, leaving them both slotted in at DH. And they were the two best hitters in the AL that season.
But while Ortiz has been banged up a little of late, he managed to put together a truly great season after 2006. Hafner put up a solid 2007, but it was unimpressive from the DH “position.”
During a down year, or at least down from Hafner’s previous three seasons, the Indians extended “Pronk” for four seasons (2009-2012), with a club option for 2013.
Now, Hafner had been great. So there was a logical reason to believe that he would continue to be great for some of the contract. Most of the contract anyway. However, Hafner will turn 32 this season, and is most likely never going to reclaim the numbers he posted from 2004-2006. And that is a lot of money over the next four seasons for what will probably be a declining hitter who has no position.
Hafner shouldn’t be written off yet. He was injured. And he should still produce some good numbers the next few years. But extending a one dimensional player, past his prime, seems like it may be a regrettable decision by Shapiro and co.
I just can’t really talk myself into Hafner being worth an average of $12.5 million over the next four seasons. And to a team like the Indians, who don’t spend tons of money, this could be very damaging. Especially since defense is relevant again (not that it wasn’t, but its importance has been stressed lately).
The best bet might be to hope Hafner is great, and possibly move him if someone is interested. But if Hafner is great, and the Indians are in contention in a very winnable division, they may have to postpone exploring trade options for Hafner in the midst of trying to win a World Series. However, the trade thingy may make a lot of sense after the season too. And the better Hafner does this year, the more they will expect to recieve.
But let’s give Hafner some time to redeem himself.