According to Indians.com, Travis Hafner underwent a 45 minute procedure on Monday to clean out the shoulder joint and examine for any possible structural or nerve damage not evident in an MRI. The article stated that the surgery was successful and Pronk will begin rehab at Progressive Field on Thursday.
"The Indians expects him to be at 100 percent strength by the beginning of the 2009 season."
What on earth has given them that impression? In his blog, the author of the aforementioned article, Anthony Castrovince, noted that the sluggers bat speed was slowing even before he reported any pain to the team.
Travis Hafner of 2006 was an offensive machine and a holy terror to opposing pitchers. Enough to earn himself quite a deal from the Indians. The kind of deal that no one batted an eye at when he received it, but has recently come in to question due to Pronk's inability to swing a bat let alone make contact.
In 2006 Hafner hit .308 with 42 home runs and 117 RBI. Those numbers dipped to .266, 24, 100 in 2007, however, this was simply seen as a down year for the slugger, something he could rebound from.
He failed to rebound in 2008, finally revealing his shoulder pain and earning an extended stint on the disabled list. In 57 games Hafner hit .197 with 5 home runs and 24 RBI. Not exactly fearsome numbers.
However, after earning $8.05 million this season Hafner is set to gain $11.5 million next season and a total of $49 million over the next four years. Those are fearsome numbers.
What can the Indians do? With so much of the team's limited capital wrapped up in their ailing slugger it appears that the best remaining option is to wait it out. Only time will tell how wise the Indians were with their investment, and if Hafner can ever provide the same offensive spark that he did in 2006.
This dilemma raises the debate about whether a player whose sole role on the team is to play designated hitter should be given such a large contract. Unfortunately, Travis Hafner may be setting a precedent for the Indians in such situations.
He may also be setting the detonation clock for General Manager Mark Shapiro. Without an improved Hafner, and all-around Indians team, in 2009 I would imagine that more than just the bullpen coach will be handing out résumés.