Travis Hafner Rumors
As if the Rays didn't already have the focus of the baseball world, Joe Maddon announced that Matt Moore will start Game One of the ALDS tomorrow against the Rangers. Moore (the 22-year-old consensus top pitching prospect in baseball) has all of 9 1/3 Major League innings to his credit, with a 2.89 ERA and 15 strikeouts against just three walks in his short career. As Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe put it, "the Rays are taking their house money and doubling down with it."
Some news from around the league as we prepare for the start of the postseason...
- Mike Quade believes he will manage the Cubs next season, though he understands if the incoming Cubs GM wants to make changes, reports Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago.
- Several players have told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald that Javier Vazquez is "without a doubt...hanging up his spikes" and retiring. Vazquez said earlier this week that he would make his final decision in a few months' time.
- GM Dayton Moore more or less confirmed speculation that the Royals will look to deal some of their wealth of prospects for a proven starter, reports Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. "There’s always a few players in your organization that you view, (where) you gotta be extremely blown away to move them," Moore said. "And I won’t get in to who those pitchers are or players. And then everybody else, you look to make deals with." As we heard last week, several of K.C.'s top prospects are untouchable.
- Royals pitching coach Bob McClure and bench coach John Gibbons won't be back next season, reports Dick Kaegel of MLB.com.
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America has this week's rundown of minor league transactions.
- Travis Hafner will be back with the Indians next season, GM Chris Antonetti confirmed to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Hafner is under contract for $13MM next season and Pluto reports that "for a while, there has been a feeling among the Indians string-pullers that if Hafner's production ever dropped low enough, ownership might be willing to eat a part of the contract."
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe names ten teams who might reap the benefits of bargain shopping as the winter winds down. The Rays, Mets, Yankees, and Angels top the list of clubs Cafardo thinks could make discounted moves in the coming weeks. Here are the rest of his hot stove notes:
- While the Mets will be hunting for affordable starting pitching options, don't expect the Phillies to trade Joe Blanton within the division.
- The Angels are making sure they don't bid against themselves on Adrian Beltre, and could eventually land the third baseman for a lesser price than Scott Boras is seeking.
- The Indians could make some more moves if they want to continue stockpiling prospects. Other teams would have interest in players like Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Joe Smith, and Fausto Carmona, while Cleveland would "love to trade" Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner.
- The Nationals "know it’s tough to get players to buy into the future of the team," writes Cafardo. As such, they may eventually commit to Adam LaRoche for the three years he's looking for.
- Jim Masteralexis, Manny Delcarmen's agent, says several teams are interested in his client, and Cafardo warns not to bet against the Rays.
- Carl Pavano may make a decision this week, and it appears that while he'd prefer to return to Minnesota, the Nationals will offer the better contract. Of course, we already saw one top free agent pitcher choose comfort over more guaranteed money, when Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies.
Some links to check out as the Reds try to extend their season...
- Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune reminds us that Cubs' pitching coach Larry Rothschild has until tomorrow to pick up his option for 2011. Rothschild has worked closely with Carlos Zambrano over the last several years, watching over him like a "substitute teacher," to use Sullivan's words.
- Meanwhile, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports that Nationals third base coach Pat Listach is no longer a candidate to manage the Cubs.
- Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that Tim Wallach will serve as either the Dodgers bench or third base coach next season unless another team hires him to be their manager.
- Sandy Alderson asked and received permission from Bud Selig to interview with the Mets for the GM vacancy next Thursday or Friday, and The New York Post's Joel Sherman says that's an indication that Alderson wants the job badly.
- Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain Dealer ranks everyone on the Indians 40-man roster based on what they did in 2010 and what they're expected to contribute in 2011.
- In a mailbag piece, Hoynes says that insurance would cover some of the $28.75MM left on Travis Hafner's contract if he lands on the disabled list with a right shoulder issue. Pronk has been battling injuries to the shoulder since 2008.
- John Tomase of The Boston Herald looks at all of the non-closer relievers who signed a multi-year deal worth at least $5MM over the last four seasons. In summary, it's not pretty. Not at all.
We've already looked at the largest contracts by service time and position, so let's now dig up the largest contracts ever given out by each of the 30 teams. These are in terms of guaranteed money only, but some could end up being even larger because of incentives and option years.
- Angels: Torii Hunter, five years, $90MM
- Astros: Carlos Lee, six years, $100MM
- Athletics: Eric Chavez, six years, $66MM
- Blue Jays: Vernon Wells, seven years, $126MM
- Braves: Chipper Jones, six years, $90MM
- Brewers: Ryan Braun, eight years, $45MM
- Cardinals: Matt Holliday, seven years, $120MM
- Cubs: Alfonso Soriano, eight years, $136MM
- Diamondbacks: Randy Johnson, four years, $53.4MM
- Dodgers: Kevin Brown, seven years, $105MM
- Giants: Barry Zito, seven years, $126MM
- Indians: Travis Hafner, four years, $57MM
- Mariners: Ichiro Suzuki, five years, $90MM
- Marlins: Hanley Ramirez, six years, $70MM
- Mets: Johan Santana, six years, $137.5MM
- Nationals: Ryan Zimmerman, five years, $45MM
- Orioles: Miguel Tejada, six years, $72MM
- Padres: Jake Peavy, three years, $52MM
- Phillies: Chase Utley, seven years, $85MM
- Pirates: Jason Kendall, six years, $60MM
- Rangers: Alex Rodriguez, ten years, $252MM
- Rays: Wilson Alvarez, five years, $35MM
- Reds: Ken Griffey Jr., nine years, $116.5MM
- Red Sox: Manny Ramirez, eight years, $160MM
- Rockies: Todd Helton, nine years, $141.5MM
- Royals: Gil Meche & Mike Sweeney, both five years, $55MM
- Tigers: Miguel Cabrera, eight years, $152.3MM
- Twins: Joe Mauer, eight years, $184MM
- White Sox: Frank Thomas, seven years, $64.4MM
- Yankees: Alex Rodriguez, ten years, $275MM
Thanks to Cot's Baseball Contracts for the info.
A pair of Cleveland Plain Dealer writers address the latest Indians-related news in their recent pieces. Paul Hoynes fields readers' questions in a mailbag, while Terry Pluto talks Tribe in an all-Cleveland article. Here are a few highlights:
- Pluto describes Cleveland's lack of consistency as the main reason why ownership reduced the team's payroll for 2010. The bump in player salaries following a strong 2007 season didn't result in on-field success over the last two years. As a result, the Indians will field one of the league's least expensive teams this season, after their 2009 payroll started around the middle of the pack.
- Pluto also says that Chris Antonetti's promotion to GM comes as no surprise, since Antonetti has been handling many of the GM duties for the last year.
- When asked if the Indians should have pursued a pitcher instead of signing Russell Branyan, Hoynes notes that Jarrod Washburn and Braden Looper were likely out of the Tribe's price range, though the club at least had interest in Washburn.
- Unless they could decisively upgrade their current rotation, the Indians thought that adding offense provided the better value, according to Hoynes.
- Hoynes finds it unlikely that the Indians will be able to move Kerry Wood or Travis Hafner this season. Their bloated contracts are only one part of the problem, since neither player enjoyed a strong 2009 campaign.
I love lists, and here's one from Peter Abraham at The Journal News that details who he thinks is in the hot seat. In other words, who might be traded or released if current trends continue. There are a number of managers and GMs on the list, but we like to focus on players here. I'm going to go through the list and take stabs-in-the-dark whether a player is likely to be dealt or if they're just fluff for Mr. Abraham's article - and then we can discuss in the comments.
Jason Giambi - An announcer this year said that Giambi's defensive range extended from his right knee to his left knee. As a fielder, he's decent with no range; however, as a hitter Giambi has never been considered a slow starter, as Abraham notes he is a career .281 hitter in April. Still, like Carlos Delgado, Giambi has shown some recent spurts of life in his bat, and he does have 7 HR (one shy of the league leading 8) and 20 RBI. PECOTA projects .230-24-73 with a .362 OBP. If he can bring his average up, he'll be roughly on target for that projection. If he can't, Abraham thinks the Yankees "might as well give someone else a chance." So far, Joe Girardi's been supportive and patient calling the slump a product of bad luck. Prediction: Staying put.
Travis Hafner - Abraham sees .256 with 27 HR in almost 700 ABs and wonders if the Indians would rather trade him to a team who believes he can turn it around than risk eating the remaining $56MM on Hafner's contract. At 31, Hafner is an oddity. Last year the slumping behemoth of a man saw his power drop by almost 20 HR. He's currently continuing that trend with his OPS at a mere 640 and w/o a homerun since April 17 (!). During an ESPN game, they were discussing how his timing - particularly with his front foot-plant - is off making it hard for him to get ahead of pitches. So his problem seems both perceptual and mechanical - but why can't Pronk seem to correct this? I'd be worried because his contract is slowly going from bothersome to disastrous. PECOTA is not a believer, projecting .275-28-98 - hardly a rebound. He's making $6.3MM this year and is on the books for another $70MM until 2013 (with a $2.75MM buyout in his last year). Is there a batting coach out there on a big-market team that can fix this? Wouldn't count on it. Prediction: Staying put.
Richie Sexson - In the Year of the Slumping First Basemen, Richie Sexson is not at all unlike Giambi or Delgado. Abraham pulls no punches with Richie, calling him "one of the worst hitters in baseball during the last two seasons and shows no signs of coming around." He's making $14MM this year, owed approx. $11.2MM more, and then he's surely done in Seattle. I agree with Abraham that $11.2MM will "buy him another month or two" but the Mariners have options and I'd expect them to explore them by trading Sexson and eating some of the contract - maybe sooner rather than later as cutting your losses is (almost) acceptable practice this season. Sexson has never been the hitter Delgado, Giambi, or Hafner have been and has been intolerably bad for just too long. Prediction: Shipping off.
Mike Timlin - Making $3MM this year, Abraham notes Timlin has allowed 9 runs in 7 1/3 IP and with a small contract would be an easy piece to move. But I ask why? Relief pitching is a commodity, and Timlin - known to the Red Sox as the captain of the bullpen - brings to the team a fair deal of intangible value, particularly as they integrate Craig Hansen and Justin Masterson into their relief corps. 7.1 IP is hardly a sample worth examining as he's basically still in spring-training-form. Last year he had a 3.42 ERA in 50 IP and while he's not the 2.24 ERA Timlin that saved 13 games when Keith Foulke went down, he's serviceable. If he fails to progress and becomes a liability then maybe the Red Sox will move him from mop up duty to another team. Still, I doubt it. Prediction: Staying put.
Let's hear your thoughts. Who did Abraham forget? Who disagrees?
By Nat Boyle
UPDATE: Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com adds that the deal includes a club option for 2013.
And now Paul Hoynes has more details. The breakdown:
2008: $4.75MM club option (exercised)
Additional $9MM added to 2007-08 salaries, bringing AAV for those years to $8.75MM
2013: Club option for undisclosed amount
Ken Rosenthal has the scoop: the Indians have signed DH Travis Hafner to a four-year, $57MM contract extension. The deal covers the 2009-12 seasons, though Rosenthal notes that some of the money will go towards Hafner's well below-market salaries this year and next. We'll have to wait for further details. It's likely David Ortiz's 4/52 contract signed in April of '06 served as a benchmark. What else would?
Some have speculated that Hafner's contract situation has affected him at the plate this year. He posted just a .702 OPS in June; he hasn't had a month like that since 2003. Pronk has consistently supplied 1.000 OPS seasons. He's quietly been one of the game's very best hitters for years.
If you ask PECOTA, this extension is reasonable no matter how the compensation is spread. They have Hafner as a $19MM player each year for 2007-09, and a $13MM player annually for 2010-11. On the other hand, there are warning signs that Hafner could fall off rapidly as some of his top comparables did.
Earlier this year, Mark Shapiro said negotiations with Hafner would be tabled until season's end. He also believed at the time that it might be possible to retain Hafner, Jake Westbrook, and C.C. Sabathia. He's two-thirds of the way there, and both have been below-market.
Perhaps Shapiro will also change his tune and try to hammer something out with Sabathia? C.C. is a Cy Young contender this year, and could ask for a contract resembling Barry Zito's if he hits the open market. Most likely, Sabathia's agent Greg Genske will recommend he wait to see what happens with Carlos Zambrano.
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.
While Indians GM Mark Shapiro thinks he still might be able to retain Travis Hafner and C.C. Sabathia despite the Jake Westbrook extension, he will hold off on contract negotiations with Hafner until after the season. Hafner and Sabathia are set to reach free agency after the 2008 season.
Hafner and the Indians have some work done that could eventually form the basis of an extension. Shapiro's comment on retaining his two big free agents makes sense: he'll do it if the money is there. A big factor will be whether the Tribe reaches the playoffs this year. Postseason revenue could help Shapiro sign both players before the '08 season begins. Baseball Prospectus says the Indians have a 61% chance of making the playoffs. They see 93-94 wins for Cleveland.
It's funny how quickly things change - David Ortiz's contract, signed one year ago, would seem to be a reasonable benchmark for Hafner. Papi got four years and $52MM with a $12.5MM club option for 2011. At this point Hafner has to be thinking at least $14MM annually and five years.
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has a well thought out column up today regarding the possible market value of Jake Westbrook, Travis Hafner, and C.C. Sabathia. Westbrook would hit free agency after this season; the other two after '08.
His take on Westbrook: four or five years at $12.5MM annually. Westbrook's agent has yet to speak with Mark Shapiro. Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon-Journal weighs in at five years and $15MM annually.
You can bet Travis Hafner wouldn't be underrated on the open market, even as a DH. Pronk could hit 50 HR this year. Hoynes thinks it would require five or six years at $12-17MM annually for him. I think he would get at least $15MM for the AAV. Teams that might need a DH in 2009: Baltimore, Toronto, L.A., Seattle, and Texas (where it all began). Of the three, Hafner probably makes the least sense for Cleveland to sign long-term. Ocker sees him getting 100/6.
Sabathia is another guy whose best season could be 2007. Carlos Zambrano's deal, whether reached now or after the '07 season, could serve as a framework. Sure, Sabathia is heavy, but he's also young and very good. I'm thinking five years, $75MM. Ocker counters with $135MM over seven seasons.