Though the New York Yankees have had a relatively quiet offseason compared to their usual standards, news was made Friday when veteran Travis Hafner agreed to play in pinstripes next season, passing up a chance to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hafner will be replacing Raul Ibanez as New York's left-handed hitting designated hitter. Ibanez, who ended up playing in 130 games with the Yankees last season, signed a similar deal to Hafner's last February.
Though the 35 year-old slugger played in just 66 games last season, Hafner managed to hit 12 home runs with 34 RBI and a .346 on-base percentage. After hitting a career-high 42 home runs in 2006 and posting four consecutive seasons of 100 or more RBI through 2007, injuries began to derail the veteran's career. However, playing in a part-time role with the Yankees seems to be an ideal situation, as it was for oft-injured stars such as Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez.
Hafner will earn $2 million with the Yankees this season, with a chance to earn an additional $4 million in performance bonuses. Pending a physical, Hafner will immediately become New York's top left-handed DH option, which could be the reason he chose the Bronx over Tampa, as the Rays have left-handed slugger Luke Scott competing for playing time.
If Hafner can stay healthy, his powerful swing from the left side of the plate should benefit from Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field, as Ibanez did last season. Last season, Ibanez had an impressive 13.4 at-bats per home run in the Bronx, which nearly cuts his career-average of 25.0 at-bats per home run in half.
With the addition of Hafner, the Yankees are likely done signing free agents this offseason, unless another low-priced corner outfielder or reliever is brought in to compete for a roster spot in spring training.
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