Feb
02

Yankees agree to sign Travis Hafner

By
I wonder if former Indians teammate CC Sabathia did any lobbying... (Leon Halip/Getty)

Reunited with former Indians teammate CC Sabathia. (Leon Halip/Getty)

Saturday: The contract includes an additional $4M in incentives according to the AP. Hafner will earn $100k each for his 150th and 155th plate appearances, with six-figure payouts for every 15 plate appearances thereafter. He’s going to rack up some big incentive bucks in a hurry if he stays healthy.

Friday: Spring Training opens in less than two weeks, and the Yankees finally have their new DH. New York has agreed to sign Travis Hafner to a one-year contract according to Jon Heyman. Ken Davidoff and Dan Barbarisi say the deal is worth $2M guaranteed with “reachable incentives.” The contract is pending a physical, which is far from a slam dunk in this case. The Yankees will need to make a corresponding 40-man roster move once things are finalized.

Hafner, 35, picked the Yankees over the Rays according to Buster Olney. He’s a career .278/.381/.507 (135 wRC+) hitter who had some monster seasons back in the day (167 wRC+ from 2004-2006). Hafner hit .267/.363/.447 (124 wRC+) overall and .278/.385/.470 (136 wRC+) against right-handers over the last three years. The one they call Pronk takes a lot of walks (12.7% since 2010) and his strikeout rate is a touch better than the league average (19.2 K%). He’s not a dead pull hitter (2010-2012 spray chart) but he is most dangerous when he hooks the ball into right. The move into Yankee Stadium should boost his numbers plenty.

Injuries have been a big problem for Hafner the last few years, which is why the physical is not given. He had right shoulder surgery (debridement) in October 2008 and right knee surgery (meniscus) this past May. Shoulder inflammation (2010), an oblique strain (2011), a foot strain (2011), and a bulging disc in his lower back (2012) are also in the not-too-distant past. Hafner has played in 95+ games just once in the last five years (2010). Staying on the field has definitely been an issue and will be a concern in 2013.

Hafner has not played the field regularly since 2003 or at all since 2007, so he’s strictly a DH. It’s not ideal, but the options are limited at this point. He’s also a big lumbering dude (listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 lbs.) who offers no speed whatsoever. We’re talking never gonna take the extra base, will need three singles to score from first, Molina-esque speed. Mark Teixeira will look like Brett Gardner by comparison. Okay, maybe he’s not that slow, but you get the point. Hafner’s career-low .233 BABIP lat year can be blamed on a sky-high 10.1% infield fly ball rate, but otherwise his batted ball profile was unchanged.

The Yankees signed Dan Johnson to a minor league contract last week, so he’s likely ticketed for Triple-A Scranton now. Hafner’s lack of durability means Johnson will probably get a shot at some point, however. Bench help and general pitching depth are the last remaining items on the offseason agenda since it’s now obvious a new starting catcher just isn’t happening. Matt Diaz (minor league deal), Russ Canzler (waivers), and Juan Rivera (minor league deal) will compete for the right-handed bench bat role while Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez are the favorites for the backup infielder spot.

Categories : Transactions

72 Comments»

  1. Dropped Third says:

    My gut tells me were done aquiring players on major league deals this year #shitychristmaspresents

  2. Easy as 123 says:

    Whatcha say Pronk whatcha say

  3. djyank says:

    can stuart, cervelli, hafner, nix, nunez and diaz all make the team? or is that one too many or one too few of that group?

    • Havok9120 says:

      Cervelli and Stewart are both nearly locks unless the Lettuce makes it. Hafner now appears to have a spot as well unless he gets hurt in ST. That leaves two spots for a RH OF and a utility IF, I believe.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Should be three spots on the bench between OF and IF:

        5 SP
        7 RP
        9 starters
        4 bench: C, IF, OF, misc.

        Last year they opened with Stewart, Nunez, Ibanez/Jones (the other being DH), and Chavez.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

        They usually carry 13 position players. As of now:
        Starters
        1B Tex
        2B Cano
        SS Jeter
        3B Youkilis
        C – ? (Cervelli/Stewart/Romine)
        OF Granderson
        OF Gardner
        OF Ichiro
        DH Hafner

        Bench
        RHOF – ? (Rivera/Diaz/etc…)
        BUC – ? (Cervelli/Stewart/Romine)
        Util – ? (likely Nunez)
        Util – ? (Nix?)

  4. Slappy McWaterbug says:

    That dude is straight up menacing in the batters box. For a LH DH, this is solid.

  5. jesse says:

    What about Thomas Neal competing for the RHH OF bench spot? They got him from the Indians after he was DFA’d following the Swisher signing. Not bad MiLB numbers and has hit well against LHP in the minors the last couple of years..

    • Havok9120 says:

      There’s several guys competing for that slot, Neal is among them.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I think he’s probably behind Diaz, Rivera, Canzler, and maybe one or more in-house guys, personally, and more likely to be in AAA.

    • Steve S says:

      He’s got minor league options. They’re gonna give preference to guys who will decline a demotion if they don’t make the team such as Rivera and Diaz.

  6. RetroRob says:

    Strangely excited to see him take aim at the short porch in right.

    Stay healthy, Pronk.

  7. dalelama says:

    Whoop Dee Dooo!!!! We are cooking on all cylinders now. How pitiful.

  8. trr says:

    I’m OK with this, but why didn’t we even make an offer to Raul Ibanez?

  9. Dan6767 says:

    Will he require a righty platoon?

  10. mick taylor says:

    sign grady sizemore. he will be healthy by july. he can dh partime, and pinch hit, and spell gardy, grandy, and i suzi in out field.

  11. SammySosasBleachingCream says:

    10.1% infield fly ball rate? Maybe he and Tex can have a contest.

  12. LK says:

    If the lineup can stay healthy (which is a pretty massive if), it should be pretty solid.

    • Havok9120 says:

      Yeah, it really isn’t that bad even assuming bounceback candidate guys don’t bounce back and none of the FAs have epic walk years. It’s worse than last season, but that’s hardly surprising since we had one of the top 2 or 3 offenses in baseball last season.

      I’m pumped.

  13. Vic says:

    I had Hafner on MLB the show last year for ps3 …. Maybe this one I’ll beat the marlins in the head for my boy Giancarlo Stanton ….. Lets go yanks !!!!!!

  14. LarryM., Fl. says:

    I believe that Hafner will be productive especially playing a bunch of games in the Bronx scaring the RF fans with his bat.

  15. Manny's BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte's Fibula) says:

    Solid signing with nice upside as a power lefty in YS3.

    Injuries are a concern though Dan Johnson is a decent caddy in AAA.

    Maybe he can get that guy Bosch to make some house calls like he apparently did for Arod to keep him healthy.

  16. Jersey Joe says:

    Canzler DFA’d. :(

  17. dalelama says:

    Hafner is perfect fit—old, slow, and breaking down.

    • WhittakerWalt says:

      Do you ever say anything nice about the Yankees?
      Oh, that’s right. This here is your favorite baseball memory:

      “Ground ball trickling… it is a fair ball… IT GETS BY BUCKNER!! ROUNDING THIRD IS KNIGHT!! THE METS WILL WIN THE BALLGAME!! THE METS WIN!! THEY WIN!!”

      • jjyank says:

        If he really is a Mets fan, his life must be pretty pathetic to spend so much time here. Only slightly more so than if he were a real Yankee fan, though.

    • OldYanksFan says:

      REALLY IF YOUR GONNA SPEND TOO MILLON DOLLARS WHY NOT GET SOMEONE YOUNG, FAST AND HEALTHY WHO HITS 20 HRS A YEAR?!?!? CASHMAN RAELLY SUCHS!

  18. Pistol pete says:

    Decent cheap sign should replace Ibanez’s offensive numbers if he stays healthy. Unfortunately he can’t field, can’t run, and is a poster child for prior ped abuse as power numbers have dropped, he is terribly injury prone, and he’s lost athleticism. Old, lefthanded, can’t run, and can’t stay healthy he should fit right in. Maybe Arod can introduce him to his cousin.

  19. Laz says:

    I have the feeling they are going to go the Granderson path with Pronk. Get him to belt everything, so he spends less time running and potentially getting injured.

  20. lou in the bronx says:

    Maybe arod can share his roids with him.

  21. Juke Early says:

    Admittedly I’m too lazy to check out every Federal law regarding steroid use medically. BUT isn’t it probably OK if an often injured human is healed by current medical standards & practices – prescribed and/or administered by a certified physician?

    So, if any in that classification of HGH or anabolics is given to say, Travis Hafner, so that he can become healthy, is that prohibited? If it is, then a player is NOT allowed to heal; especially if the injury occurred is work (play) related. Bit of injustice, if an athlete isn’t accorded the same option & rights as the rest of us.

    • Now Batting says:

      Yep, professional athletes have it really unfair. Pretty sure I just strained my eyes from rolling them too hard.

    • OldYanksFan says:

      You have a very good point, especially considering cortisone shots are legal, even though they are a strong PED (Cortisone is a type of steroid that is produced naturally by a gland in your body called the adrenal gland) and takes a player in pain and unable to play, and puts him back on the field in 2 days.

      • Andrew 518 says:

        I’ve personally been prescribed a steroid to help heal an injury (don’t at all remember what it was) Both suprising and a bit scary how effective it was. Absolute night and day.

        I think two factors could be involved.

        1). Long term health. While these substances can help heal, repeated use can be detrimental. Athletes are subject to more severe or at least more frequent injury per capita ratio) than the general public. For you or me it might be a one time thing (my own injury in question was sports related), for a proffesional athlete it could very well be a regular regiment.

        2). Regulation. Just as when baseball banned aphetamines there was a significant spike in players diagnosed with ADD. With enough money just about anyone can find a doctor to give them a prescription for what ever it is that they want wrong with them.

  22. sevrox says:

    Dare I say it – there’s a chance that the Yanks offense might be as good or better than last year with a healthy Youk and Pronk added to the lineup? Figure Youk can hit at least as good as Arod and Hafner outhit Ibanez?

    • Mike HC says:

      Definitely. If the Yanks have a little luck with health, the lineup should be close to the top of the league again.

    • JCK says:

      Who replaces Swisher and Martin, though?

      • Now Batting says:

        Ichiro had a 114 OPS+, with better base running and defense as a Yankee, compared to 126+ for Swisher. Not saying he’ll repeat it but if you want to feel optimistic that’s what I’d point to.

        Russ hit below .200 and had an OBP below .300 until September. That’s his age 29 season. You want to pay him 7-8 mil going forward? I think his loss has been overstated.

        • forensic says:

          Completely agree. I’m higher on Ichiro than most, and though he certainly won’t show Swisher’s power, I think he’ll come pretty close to equaling his total production. I also think Martin is being vastly overrated now that he’s gone. Cervelli’s MLB numbers a pretty close to him in overall production (less power, more BA/OBP). If he can do that again, they might be ok, though he also needs a little improvement defensively.

          Personally, I’m more worried about the existing pieces on the team rather than those changes. Jeter, Granderson, and Tex in particular. And that’s just the offense, not counting the pitching.

      • hogsmog says:

        In my mind, Gardner maintains Swisher’s OBP, with the loss of power somewhat mitigated by speed/defense. You’re right though, it’s still a significant hit; I don’t know when we’ll next see a catcher in pinstripes with 20 home runs.

  23. forensic says:

    I’m kind of in between on putting all these playing time based incentives in contracts, as the Yankees seem to have fallen in love with. I know you can’t do performance based incentives anymore, but just paying a guys for playing isn’t always a good thing.

    For one, he could be playing but if he’s not playing well then you’re paying him more the more he hurts the team (the theory is that if he’s not playing well then he won’t play, but that’s far from guaranteed, and given their veteran preference, I’d almost say its unlikely). Second, just because someone is playing doesn’t mean they’re healthy. We’ve obviously seen this one over and over again with the Yankees (and most teams for that matter) but playing through injury doesn’t often seem to help your team.

    Finally, there’s no cost certainty involved with it. Not so much referring to this year but more to next year. If they’re staring at $189 and still do contracts like this, then it’s going to lower the actual number they can spend for sure at even more. For example, people love to say Ibanez was a bargain at $1.1 million, but in reality because of his incentives he cost $3.05 million, which considering his overall performance is a bit much and it’s $2 million extra they have to assume they’ll be required to pay (actually, it’s more like $4 million as the total available in incentives).

    • Ted Nelson says:

      It’s a nice middle ground. You pay for the playing time you get. If a guy sustains a serious injury, you do still have that money to spend. So, it could work very well with $189. It could allow them to take on some salary in-season if a need arises because someone on an incentive laden deal is hurt.

      The alternative is guaranteeing more money than the base. When there’s another team bidding (like the Rays for Hafner) who will give him all the incentives, you might have to guarantee close to the max with incentives to compete.

      Hafner has hit all but one season since his debut season, so the risk of him not performing if he’s playing doesn’t seem that high. The risk of him not playing about half the season, give or take, does seem pretty high.

      • forensic says:

        Though it’s reported that he chose the Yankees over theRays, that says nothing about what they were willing to offer. Maybe they only offered the same base without incentives. Maybe they offered less. Maybe he only made the choice based on the Rays already having Luke Scott that he’d have to compete with while the Yankees don’t have anyone like that.

        I agree that it’s more likely than not that he’ll hit (and hopefully hit very well based on history vs righties), but with his injury history it’s not a given if he’s trying to force his way onto the field while injured.

        And as a small ting about your comment below, it’s not $6 million for a full DH, but $6 million for a platoon DH, about 75% of a full one. If he hits like his typical numbers vs righties (minus a discount for his inevitable AB’s vs lefties), them it could be worth it, but it’s not so easy as it may seem.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I said ***you might***. But do you really think that the Yankees offered him 3x what the Rays were just for the fun of it? “We could pay him 3x less, but let’s play him more.” If it was just because of Luke Scott, wouldn’t that mean the Rays offered as much or more but he didn’t want to go over playing time concerns?

          “with his injury history it’s not a given if he’s trying to force his way onto the field while injured.”

          Again, there’s almost no history of him being on the field and not producing. And as you’ve said, if he’s not producing you just don’t play him.

          An incentive laden contract doesn’t mean the team can’t lose, but it’s a pretty good way to strike a middle ground with an injury prone player. I don’t know what you are comparing it to, which is why I brought up the alternative being guaranteeing the money. If the Yankees could have signed him for less money, don’t you think that they could have? Logically it would seem that they had to offer that much, unless Cashman is just routinely getting out negotiated.

          “but it’s not so easy as it may seem.”

          I think it’s just as easy as it seems. If he plays you pay him more. If he doesn’t play you pay him less.

      • G says:

        If he does suddenly play terribly, you have the option of benching him and using him sparingly. In that case, you won’t end up paying him the incentives because he’s not earning playing time. They’re really indirectly performance based incentives since you have to play well to earn playing time.

    • Me says:

      I think it may be helpful to think of the incentive-laden contract more as insurance for the player than for the team. It’s insurance for veteran players who want to make sure they don’t get stiffed if they have a good year. As far as I know, team management still decides who actually plays, and surely players who sign these contracts are aware of this. So the veteran players, who may only have a year or two left in the tank, want to ensure they don’t end up getting paid $1million for a $10 million year.

  24. Ted Nelson says:

    Seems about right. $6 mill for a full season of a DH who has put up a 124 wRC+ over the past three seasons, or more likely some portion of that for some portion of a season.

  25. RetroRob says:

    Here’s hoping he reaches all the incentives, because that means he’s healthy.

  26. CashmanNinja says:

    I absolutely love this deal. I’d hate it if it was all guaranteed because that’d be a $6 mil gamble. But right now it’s much cheaper than that — basically around what Ibanez got if I recall correctly. If Hafner has any fuel left in the tank then this will have been a terrific signing. I’m actually going to go out on a limb and suggest that, if healthy, he’ll have a chance to be the full time DH (save for a few times when regulars need some rest, plus maybe a game or 2 at 1st). I think he’ll either be hurt and contribute next to nothing or he’ll be healthy and it’ll be hard to keep him out of the line up. I’m leaning towards the latter because he still has the power and ability to hit…he’s just been hurt lately. Now he’ll get a chance to be DH and only hit and maybe this is the year he finally stays healthy (knock on wood). I just have a good feeling about him and think it’s a terrific risk. I wouldn’t have minded Thome so much, but he’s even slower than Hafner and I don’t think has as much left in the tank…so I’ll gladly take Pronk and hope he can go 20-25 HR for us.

  27. Andrew 518 says:

    I’m not really for or against contracts structured like this, but kind of a werid set up. I understand that they point is for the goals to be achievable, but 5ab’s between “incentives?” That must be a heck of a game they are expecting out of him. Of course the $150,000 is less than A-Rod makes per game so I guess it’s not completely out of wack.

  28. There's the Door says:

    Should be about 10K per plate appearance.

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