With less than a dozen days left before pitchers and catchers report for spring training, the Yankees are still sitting tight, despite question marks at catcher, toward the back of their starting rotation, and at designated hitter. If a few reports that leaked last night are accurate, though, then general manager Brian Cashman might soon awaken from his winter-long slumber.
Yankees possibly on verge of adding Travis Hafner
According to WEEI’s Rob Bradford, Cashman is in serious negotiations with agent Brian Peters about a contract for Hafner, whose $13 million club option was declined by the Indians on Oct. 31. The 35-year-old Hafner is coming off of a four-year, $57 million hitch with the Tribe, which ended when Cleveland opted for his $2.75 million buyout, and is likely to assent to a one-year pact, per Wall Street Journal beat writer Daniel Barbarisi. That price tag is consistent with the Yankees’ intent to trim their payroll below $189 million for the 2014 season.
If Hafner lands in the Bronx, he would settle atop the designated-hitter depth chart and be asked to take over the role that Raul Ibanez played last year, minus the 93 misguided appearances in left and right field. A left-handed batter with a strong résumé of both patience and power against northpaws, Hafner would fit well in manager Joe Girardi’s lineup and has the profile to take full advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short porch.
As the spray chart above, from TexasLeaguers.com, shows, when Hafner is able to stay on the field, he still exhibits plenty of pull-side power. Many of those green squares on the Progressive Field warning track—representing Hafner’s batted balls from the past two years—would have cleared the fences at Yankee Stadium. The trouble, and the main reason why Hafner has not yet found his new home, is that he has amassed only 631 plate appearances over the last two seasons, while averaging 80 games per year.
Although the right-shoulder woes that plagued Hafner in 2008—necessitating a debridement procedure that October—and recurred in 2009 and 2010 now appear to be behind him, he missed 48 games with two strains (oblique and foot) in 2011 and needed surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee last May 31. That operation cost Hafner 37 games, and he later missed 40 more with a bulging disc in his lower back. Hafner has not played defensively since 2007, when he made 11 appearances at first base, but a part-time role with regular rest might help him to endure a full season, breaking a five-year streak during which he has annually required at least one stint on the disabled list.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman confirmed Bradford’s report, but noted that other candidates for the gig are still in play. Russ Canzler, who also spent the 2012 season with the Indians, and Eduardo Nunez, who is presently set to return as the utility infielder, are two righties who might be used in a platoon with whichever lefty Cashman ultimately adds, and minor-league pickups Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera could earn at-bats in the DH slot, as well. Given the plethora of right-handed options already in the organization, whether the anticipated addition turns out to be Hafner or a different player, it almost certainly will be a left-handed hitter.
Joe Saunders bidding has reached the two-year range
Back on Jan. 5, Saunders told The Baltimore Sun that he “would like to come back to Baltimore.” If beat writer Dan Connolly’s sources are correct, then he may need to offer the Orioles a discount to make it happen.
Connolly heard recently that the 31-year-old southpaw has a two-year, $15 million proposal on the table from a team other than the one that he helped to propel into the American League Division Series by outdueling Yu Darvish in the wild-card playoff. Later in the article, Connolly noted that Dan Duquette and company are unlikely to commit to more than a one-year hitch, perhaps including an option for the 2014 season, so Saunders may soon be forced to weigh financial considerations against his desire to stay in Baltimore and to play for a contender.
The team behind the two-year offer remains unknown, but, a week ago, Heyman identified the Mariners as one of the suitors hoping to lure Saunders away. General manager Jack Zduriencik has yet to secure a replacement for Jason Vargas, whom he traded to the Angels for Kendrys Morales earlier this winter. Besides Felix Hernandez, Seattle’s rotation currently includes Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez, and Hector Noesi, so veteran stability might be welcomed. Considering that the Mariners dabbled in the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes, Zduriencik has plenty of money left to spend, but MLB.com’s Greg Johns wrote on Jan. 7 that the team would prefer to have one of its top-five prospects, Danny Hultzen or James Paxton, step into Vargas’ shoes.
The Twins are another plausible destination, and, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN Twin Cities, they “could be willing to go to two years.” As of three days ago, though, Wolfson’s sources believed that general manager Terry Ryan’s offer was for one year, and that he was awaiting a response from Saunders’ agent, Greg Genske, before pondering whether to bump it. On the other hand, Wolfson also quoted owner Jim Pohlad as saying, “There definitely payroll flexibility,” making the Twins an option to bear in mind.