The New York Yankees reportedly signed Travis Hafner, quietly continuing the non Alex Rodriguez portion of their offseason. Hafner, the ex-Cleveland Indian, would serve as a designated hitter and power bat off the bench for manager Joe Girardi.
While the recent headlines about Rodriguez have dominated the national and New York baseball headlines, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has made signings that address areas of need for the Bronx Bombers.
Hafner’s signing gives the Yanks a power bat in the DH role. With Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner projected starters in the Yankee outfield, Joe Girardi needed a viable power threat to replace the departed Raul Ibanez. Cashman reportedly signed Hafner to a $2 million contract that could be worth more with incentives. Over the past two years, Hafner’s OPS has been higher than Ibanez, albeit in fewer games. Hafner is five years younger than Ibanez but has battled a slew of injuries in recent years.
Another moves of note this offseason include the signing of third baseman Kevin Youkilis to a $12 million contract and Ichiro to a two year, $13 million contract. Youkilis will give the Yankees a legitimate presence at third base who has never been distracted by Australian bikini models during the postseason (at least that I am aware of). Ichiro provides the Yankees an added dimension of speed and defense in right field at a fraction of the cost of Nick Swisher.
Yankee fans who are disgruntled over the loss of steady producer and postseason hero Ibanez should be comforted by the Yankees tremendous success in the late 1990’s with aging sluggers who produced well in part time roles. Chili Davis, Cecil Fielder, Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco and David Justice all contributed to Yankee titles in platoon roles, as DH’s and as pinch hitters.
Cashman still has work to do, as the Yankees are in need of a right handed power bat to platoon with Hafner and to pinch hit. Or perhaps the Steinbrenners, Cashman and Girardi are planning to pencil in #13 in that role when he returns after the All-Star break from hip surgery.