The Indians placed Travis Hafner on the DL today with lower back inflammation. The move is retroactive to August 6, so Hafner could presumably return sooner if he’s (by some miracle) physically able to do so. This is his second trip to the DL this season, as he spent May 24-July 4 on the DL due to knee surgery. Jason Donald was recalled from Columbus to take Hafner’s spot on the roster. I feel compelled to point out a friend’s nickname for Hafner – the “Unincredible Hulk.” It’s because Hafner looks big and tough, much like the Hulk, but in actuality is about as fragile as paper mache. The Unincredible Hulk strikes again.
Let’s be fair here, is anyone going to even miss Hafner at this point? At one point his average was hovering around .300, but now he’s hitting .239/.355/.453 with 11 home runs. Every so often he’d get into a pitch, but for the most part I started to feel as if he was basically an automatic out. His production (as it’s been lately) could be reproduced easily by a mediocre player, so it’s not like this is going to be a big hit to an already “meh” lineup.
In 48 at-bats at the major league level this year, Jason Donald is hitting .188/.226/.208 with zero home runs. He’s been better with Triple-A Columbus, hitting .277/.365/.441 with six home runs in 256 at-bats. While I’m not necessarily blown away by Donald, at this point I’d rather see players on the bubble like him get some major league playing time. With regular at-bats, he probably could at least perform on par with Hafner’s average and on base percentage.
Midway through the 2007 season, Hafner signed a four-year, $57 million extension that also includes a $13 million team option for 2013. It sounds as if the Indians have made it pretty clear they will not pick up the option for next season. At this point, I’m also hoping that they don’t pull a Grady Sizemore-like deal where they buy out the option, but sign Hafner at a reduced rate. I know that Hafner had some monster years from around 2005-2007, but I never really support giving a DH-only type of player that kind of money. Not because there aren’t talented hitters that serve as DH, David Ortiz comes to mind as one of the greats. Just because it seems like most years you can find a player that may be past his prime in the field, but still swings a good bat. And you can typically sign those types of players for much less than $11-$13 million per season. The reason I don’t even want Hafner around at a reduced rate is that it’s really time to cut ties. Even prior to the current marketing campaign, the Indians have been asking “what if” Hafner and Sizemore were actually healthy and able to contribute. Just give up and move on. (And check out the “What If” parody if you’ve yet to see it).
Just think, with Hafner and Sizemore coming off the books next year, the Indians will have an additional $20 million that they can pocket and not put back into improving the team.