It's very possible that Travis Hafner will have a new home by the trading deadline.
Ever since Travis Hafner's power was sapped after the 2007 season, his contract has become more and more of a burden for the Cleveland Indians. $13 million for the 2004-2007 Hafner, who averaged 32 HR with a .410 OBP, a 156 OPS+, and a 4.5 WAR, isn't bad. $13 million for the 2008-2010 Hafner, who averaged only 11 HR with a .353 OBP, a 114 OPS+, and a 1.0 WAR, is horrible. The Indians cannot begin to be able to pay Hafner's salary for his current level of production.
That said, Travis Hafner is still not a bad player. With an OPS+ of 126 in the past two years, he's still a good hitter, even if his elite power is gone. The only reason he doesn't fit in Cleveland anymore is because they cannot afford to pay his contract. It is time for both Pronk and the Indians to move on. As such, here are 10 possible locations Travis Hafner could find himself in by the July 31 trading deadline.
Note: I don't expect the Indians to get much in return for Hafner. Anything above a single-A prospect and/or a player to be named later would surprise me. I expect the Indians to try to convince the other team to pay the rest of Hafner's contract, making it harder to get much in return. This won't be a blockbuster trade; these trades will be more of an effort to clear the books than anything else.
The Angels could be looking to put Bobby Abreu back into the field.
It was reported last week that the Angels were looking for a left-handed batter to insert into their lineup. The Indians need a place to send Travis Hafner. This one seems to make so much sense that there's no way it will ever happen.
In order to accommodate this move, the Angels will have to put Bobby Abreu back into RF and Torii Hunter back into CF, sending Peter Bourjos back to the bench. Bourjos is an elite defensive player, but his bat is far from ready. With the Angels looking to reclaim the AL West crown, they could easily decide that they need to create more offense to win. If they decide that, then Travis Hafner should be their man.
Replacing Edwin Encarnacion with Travis Hafner could give Toronto's offense an immediate boost.
With Edwin Encarnacion as the current Blue Jays DH, Travis Hafner could easily fit right in up in Toronto. Encarnacion owns a career OPS+ of 103 and averages about 17 HR per season. In the past two years, Pronk has a 126 OPS+ with 14.5 HRs per season.
Sacrifice 2.5 HR for 23 points in OPS+? Sounds like a good deal to me. Hafner would lend some help to a Blue Jays offense that will need to step its game up to compete with the new and improved Red Sox and Orioles (and that doesn't even mention the offensive level the Yankees and Rays play at).
If the Rangers move Michael Young as per his request, then Travis Hafner could fill his spot easily.
Everyone watched the Michael Young situation unfold this offseason. Young is still a very productive player and seems very frustrated with the Rangers front office. If they grant his request for a trade, then the Rangers will be in the market for a DH to replace him.
This move would bring Travis Hafner full circle since he debuted for the Rangers way back in 2002. With the Rangers trying to repeat their pennant run from last year, Pronk could be the piece that helps them get back to the World Series.
Alright, probably not. But it certainly can't hurt if they do move Young. Plus, this trade would prevent him from ending up on the Angels, hurting a division rival and upgrading their own team at the same time.
If the Tigers want to compete this year, the future might not be now.
With the Detroit Tigers quickly becoming Cleveland North (Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez), it would only make sense for the Tigers to add Travis Hafner to their ranks.
More seriously, the Tigers are playing catch up to the Minnesota Twins right now and could use a boost on the offensive end. Alex Avila may be the future catcher of the Tigers, but for competing now, his bat might not be ready. Avila only registered a 79 OPS+ and seven HR last year in his first full season.
New addition Victor Martinez, currently penciled in at DH, could easily move to catcher to allow Pronk to join the Tigers. His addition could be the move that finally takes the Tigers past the Twins in the AL Central race.
Jorge Posada hasn't broken down yet, but if he does, Travis Hafner could fill in for him.
If the 39-year-old Jorge Posada, currently the Yankees DH, finally breaks down, the Yankees (like normal) will probably look to the outside to fill that spot. Posada has only played in 58 percent of the Yankees' regular season games in the last three years, so breaking down is a distinct possibility for Jorge.
It would take a big start out of Hafner for the Yankees to come calling, but it is possible. While seeing the down-to-earth Pronk in a Yankees uniform sounds weird, the Yankees typically get whatever they want (with the exception of Cliff Lee). They can easily afford Hafner's contract, so if they come calling, the Indians should be receptive to the call.
The next five NL teams would be looking to pick up Pronk at the trading deadline. These teams, provided they are still contenders, will be making preparations for a possible World Series trip. That trip includes three or four potential games in an AL park, meaning they need a DH.
Since NL teams don't use the DH, they typically are at a disadvantage when trying to field one. If a team is fairly sure they will have a shot at a title, they can trade for a player like Pronk to DH down the road.
Do you really want Ross Gload and company DHing in the World Series?
The Phillies are everyone's early favorite in the NL, but their potential DHs don't look imposing. Do you want Ross Gload (94 OPS+ and 34 HR in nine seasons) starting a World Series game? Ben Francisco (105 OPS+, 39 HR in four seasons)? These aren't bad players, but a hot Hafner could be a better injection into a lineup looking to win a title.
The Cardinals might not want to go to war with Jon Jay and Allen Craig as their DHs.
It's quite possible that Jon Jay and/or Allen Craig take a big leap this year, but just in case, Travis Hafner could DH for the Cardinals in October. Jay (114 OPS+, four HR in 323 plate appearances) and Craig (92 OPS+, four HR in 124 plate appearances) are not bad hitters, but Pronk could be a much better World Series DH for St. Louis.
If the Giants want to win the World Series again, they may need more offense.
Last year, the Giants won the World Series on the strength of their pitching. The offense happened to catch fire at the right time, propelling them over the Texas Rangers. If their offense hadn't come alive, they probably wouldn't be champions right now.
Last year, Cody Ross was acquired for no apparent reason and then proceeded to lead them in October. Ross only had a 101 OPS+ and 60 HR from 2008-2010. If Hafner is hot at the trade deadline, the Giants could pick him up to try and protect their title.
The Dodgers did something similar to picking up Travis Hafner in 2009: picking up Jim Thome.
My whole precedent for Travis Hafner being traded to an NL team at midseason comes from the 2009 Dodgers acquiring Jim Thome at the trading deadline. He was unable to play in the field, but they took a chance in case they made it to the World Series.
The Dodgers would need to settle their divorce court proceedings to take on Hafner's $13 million contract, but if things go the Dodgers way, Pronk could provide in 2011 what Thome was supposed to in 2009—a World Series DH for an NL team.
Travis Hafner could make someone very happy this year.
It's impossible to project who will be competing four months from now, but one of these contenders could be in need of a DH for the World Series. The Braves could make a surge, as could the Reds, Rockies, Cubs or some other surprise NL team.
I think that the other four NL teams are most likely to come calling for Pronk, but a surprise team easily could. In the end, hopefully one of these teams comes forward for everyone's sake. The Tribe need to move on and get out from under Hafner's contract, and I'm sure Pronk wants to win a ring. A trade at this point makes sense for all sides.