NOTE: The Yankees competed the deal and officially signed Travis Hafner to a one-year deal on January 31, just after this article posted.
Can left-handed hitter Travis Hafner give the New York Yankees the same production that Raul Ibanez gave them in 2012? Ibanez’s
performance as DH and left-fielder was exactly what the New York Yankees paid for – especially in the postseason. Even though the postseason did not end well for the Yankees, we fans will always remember the three huge late-inning home runs against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers. These followed late-inning heroics to secure the division title in the last few games of the regular season.
Ibanez returned to the Seattle Mariners for 2013, leaving a void in the designated hitter role. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports that the Yankees are interested in Travis Hafner to fill the void. The Cleveland Indians bought out the final year of Hafner’s contract, making him a free agent. Hoch reports that Hafner and the Indians could still work out a deal of their own.
Hafner is a powerful left-handed hitter similar to Ibanez. He hits right-handed pitching very well.
The negatives of signing Travis Hafner include his recent history of injuries. His last full season was 2007, also the last time he played in the field. He has averaged only 86 games per year since then with the highest total of 118 in 2010. He played in only 66 games in 2012 and hit .233 with 12 HR and 23 RBI. Hafner’s WAR from 2008 on is only 0.9. FanGraphs’ Bill James Projections has Hafner playing in 100 games and hitting .258, 14 HR, 51 RBI in 2013.
Actually, those numbers are not too far off from Ibanez’s .240, 19 HR, and 62 RBI in 130 games. Ibanez played more than projected when he signed because of Brett Gardner’s near season-long injury. If Travis Hafner can play 100 games primarily against right-handed pitchers, then he may have some value with the short porch in Yankee Stadium. He will also take a walk as a .346 OBA indicates. The problem there is that the Yankees still need a right-handed counterpart similar to Andruw Jones (who took his power to Japan) to play against the lefties.
Travis Hafner is not my first choice in DH for the Yankees. His signing most likely requires a second player. I would prefer one player who could hit most every day against lefties or righties. However, if the Yankees do sign him, then I know that manager Joe Girardi will get the most out of him.
Baseball Reference, Travis Hafner Player Page, baseball-reference.com.
Bryan Hoch, Yankees Interested in Hafner for Vacant DH Role, Yankees.mlb.com, January 30, 2013.
Raymond became a baseball fan at a very young age. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. His favorite teams are the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau
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Filed Under: Major League Baseball