It’s the middle of January and the Indians’ roster seems to have pretty much taken shape. But there’s one glaring question mark in the middle of the Tribe’s projected lineup: a designated hitter. With Mike Morse now off the market and no clear in-house candidate ready to assume the role, it seems increasingly likely that Cleveland might bring back a familiar face to DH in 2013. So in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists (featuring guest contributor Nino Colla from The Tribe Daily): Should the Indians re-sign Travis Hafner?
Nino Colla (The Tribe Daily): Seeing as how I will forever respect and love what Travis Hafner did for the Indians, I would love to see him back in an Indians uniform. If the Indians could hold a 26th player and be guaranteed he could play twice or so a week against week right-handed pitchers, man I’d sign him now. But you significantly hurt the chances to be flexible with your roster if you bring Hafner back.
I think, as tough as it will be, you need to give guys like Yan Gomes a shot, as he provides the opportunity for the Indians to keep Carlos Santana fresh, get Marson into the lineup more against left-handers, and not have to worry about not having a catcher available if something were to happen. Plus Gomes has had a nice winter with Brazil and is just another in the line of Toronto catching prospects who have some potential. So, I guess they probably should pass on Hafner, not just because of Gomes, but partly because of Gomes and partly because of a lot of other things.
Jeff Mount: Depends on the price. No more than $2 million, with some incentives that are based on producing, not just plate appearances. If he costs more than that I would go after Jason Kubel or Mike Morse. They can play other positions and are more likely to stay healthy.
Evan Vogel: The Indians should re-sign Travis Hafner to a very small, non-guaranteed contract, such as a minor league deal. There is no reason to guarantee a player with the recent track record like Hafner brings to the table significant dollars, especially after giving him $2.75 million to walk away earlier in the offseason.
While Hafner would be a solid addition to a club that truly lacks a DH, as the Indians do, you have to be cautious of depending on Hafner, as he hasn’t had more than 400 at-bats since 2007 and he is turning 36 in June.
Adding a player who can still get on base (a .381 career OBP and a .346 OBP in 2012 while hitting just .228) to a vastly improved middle of the order (Asdrubal Cabrera, Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana, Mark Reynolds) could make the Tribe very capable of producing runs and becoming a viable contender in the AL Central, a division that was won with just 88-wins in 2012. Lord knows they need the runs with the pitching staff as weak as it looks right now!
Katrina Putnam: Sure, Travis Hafner may be getting old, and he isn’t exactly the picture of health, but what harm would signing him really do? He gets on base a lot (his career OBP is. 381) and even in just 66 games last year, he still hit 12 home runs. A lineup with a 3/4/5/6 of Santana, Swisher, Hafner and Reynolds would be as intimidating as any team’s.
If he plays around 3-4 times a week, that would give position players the opportunity to take a day off and DH instead, and hopefully he could stay healthier with the extra rest. On a minimal deal with incentives instead of last year’s ridiculous contract, why not? When compared to what the Rangers paid for Lance Berkman, Hafner would be a steal.
Lewie Pollis: Hafner has a reputation both in Cleveland and around the league for being unreliable, washed up, and a waste of money. He’s played 95 games only once in the last five years and the $57 million extension the Indians gave him in 2007 now looks like one of the worst investments in team history. But the biggest problem with Hafner wasn’t that he couldn’t stay healthy, it was that he couldn’t stay healthy while the Tribe paid him $13 million a year.
Instead of thinking about Hafner for his failings, think about what he would provide: a half-season’s worth of at-bats with an OPS right around .800 (where it’s been four years in a row). Given that Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles bring a tremendous amount of versatility to the Tribe’s bench, isn’t that worth a roster spot and the $2 million or so it would take to sign him? I say yes.
Brian Heise: Even though I think Pronk is past his prime as an formidable everyday player, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a solid contributor in a part time role. With the Indians combination of Santana, Marson, and Reynolds there is no reason the Indians shouldn’t be able to get solid usage out of Hafner in a part time role. With that combination of players along with Hafner, the Indians should be able to limit Hafner’s appearances to three to four times a week and strictly against right handed pitching. Yes, it sounds crazy, but here are the things Hafner can still offer when healthy: power, a solid OBP, and an above average left handed bat that can fill in the middle of the order.
With the current roster we no longer need to rely on Hafner to hit 40 home runs and drive in 100 runs from the four hole. He can hit sixth or even seventh and perform with significantly lesser expectations than what he is used to. If he can stay healthy, and I really think the Indians have the personnel around him to insure that, Hafner might have one more solid year left in the tank.