Jim Ingraham of The Morning Journal out of Cleveland offers some thoughts on Travis Hafner's season-long slump. Pronk is hitting .257/.401/.432 on the season. He's walking more than ever, but the .432 SLG is a far cry from his usual .600 mark.
Ingraham believes Hafner has been distracted this year, with his contract situation weighing on his mind. According to Ingraham's sources, Hafner was either offered 5/70 or 4/60 from the Indians in the early weeks of the season. Was he offended by the offer?
Even as a DH, Hafner should be worth around $18-19MM a year over the next few seasons (according to Baseball Prospectus). Only in 2010 is he expected to drop into the $13MM range. So Hafner has a right to expect significantly more than $14-15MM annually, even if he's offense-only. The Tribe may be using David Ortiz's 4/52 contract as a benchmark, but that was signed before the 2006 season.
According to BP, Hafner's top comparable is Willie McCovey. Decline definitely set in for McCovey around his age 33 season. Boog Powell is also high on the list; he also dropped off in his early 30s. Fred McGriff, Carlos Delgado, Mo Vaughn...this is why the Indians are reluctant to pay top dollar long-term for a player of Hafner's type.
Hafner is incredibly underpaid at $3.75MM this season and $4.75MM in 2008. He signed the deal in March of 2005, probably looking to set himself up for life with only one full season in the books. You can't blame him for signing, but it has to feel a little unfair right now. Unfortunately the best business decision for the Tribe might be to just let him play out his contract.
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