A trade match for Burnett

Travis Hafner

It’s been a long, long time since the days when Travis Hafner and teammate Grady Sizemore were taking votes away from each other in the MVP balloting. From 04-06 he was one of the best young sluggers in the game. But injuries, in particular a nagging, hard to diagnose shoulder problem had robbed him of much of his elite talent. He hasn’t played 1B since 2007 and hasn’t sniffed an MVP ballot since. His 13M annual salary has been a largely a black hole in the always-tight CLE budget going back to those glory days. The drop off in production coincided with MLBs drug testing policy and led to speculation about PEDs, a charge that he flatly denies and there is no evidence to support. The shoulder appears to be fixed, he hasn’t had any setbacks since July of 2010. On August 21st there was a foot injury that the team worried may require surgery, but it appears he avoided the procedure. After taking 3 weeks off he came back and produced well in September. On to the numbers.

Year   G   PA   AB   R    H  2B 3B  HR RBI SB CS  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS OPS+
2002  23   70   62   6   15   4  1   1   6  0  1   8  15 .242 .329 .387  .716   86
2003  91  324  291  35   74  19  3  14  40  2  1  22  81 .254 .327 .485  .812  115
2004 140  573  482  96  150  41  3  28 109  3  2  68 111 .311 .410 .583  .993  162
2005 137  578  486  94  148  42  0  33 108  0  0  79 123 .305 .408 .595 1.003  168
2006 129  563  454 100  140  31  1  42 117  0  0 100 111 .308 .439 .659 1.097  181
2007 152  659  545  80  145  25  2  24 100  1  1 102 115 .266 .385 .451  .837  120
2008  57  233  198  21   39  10  0   5  24  1  1  27  55 .197 .305 .323  .628   69
2009  94  383  338  46   92  19  0  16  49  0  0  41  67 .272 .355 .470  .826  120
2010 118  462  396  46  110  29  0  13  50  2  1  51  94 .278 .374 .449  .824  130
2011  94  368  325  41   91  16  0  13  57  0  0  36  78 .280 .361 .449  .811  126


At first glance, his numbers look too good for the Indians to want to deal him, but then you notice only 94 games played last season. He struggles against lefties (.680 OPS) so he’s effectively a platoon DH at this point, which is a poor use of a roster spot for a rebuilding team like the Indians but a perfect fit for what the Yankees need. The Yanks are looking for a DH facing Righties and the lefty hitting Hafner posted a robust .302/.404/.482 (.886 OPS) against them last year. He offers by far the most upside of any of the DHs on the free agent market or trade targets like Lyle Overbay or Jason Bay. Fangraphs says he’s been worth 3.0 WAR total the past 2 seasons (1.5 per) and earned about 6M each year of the 13M salary. He’s in the last year of his deal, with a 13M team option for 2013 that has a 2.75M buyout. He’d cost the Yanks 15.75M for one year of his services, which is about the same AJs contract for one year. Fangraphs has AJs value at the same 3 WAR total (6M value per) over the past two years, so the difference that would need to be made up would be the net loss on AJs contract in 2013. That comes out to 10M, so the Yanks will need to either pick that up or add a minor league player to the deal. After getting little in return for Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, and dealing the few good pitching prospects they had for Ubaldo Jiminez, the Cleveland farm system is bereft of MLB ready pitching talent. For example, BA has ex-Yankee Zach McCallister listed as their 3rd best pitching prospect, and the low ceiling Nick Hagadone as their best. One of Yankee AAA arms like Warren/Mitchell/Phelps should be too good for Cleveland GM Chis Antonetti to pass up. On the heels of losing Fausto Carmona/Heredia they’re in need of a starter, one with more certainty than the newly acquired Kevin Slowey. If Cashman doesn’t want to give up talent then he can always offer to pick up salary and save the Tribe some $ going forward.  But the elements are clearly there, let’s make a deal.

34 thoughts on “A trade match for Burnett

  1. Baseball Guy


    This makes a TON of sense.

    I have a great feeling about Hafner in 2012.

    • I have a feeling that is going to be the consensus. He’s absolutely perfect, the only hang up could be the minor leaguer that has to go with Burnett, but that should be workable.

  2. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe I have cracked the code.

  3. T.O. Chris

    Do the Indians really think of themselves as rebuilding? Trading for Jimenez and Lowe would suggest that they don’t. I would think if they’re trading Hafner it would take a little better prospect than Warren/Phelps/Mitchell, since they have almost no need at all for Burnett after the Lowe deal. True Carmona did just get popped for stealing an identity, but they did pick up his 7 million dollar option and as of this moment you have to assume he will be in their rotation come the start of the season. Plus they just traded for Kevin Slowey in case he can’t. So they currently have 6 starters if Carmona comes back, why add a 7th, passed his prime, expensive, ineffective 5th starter?

    • Right, they just lost Carmona so they need a starter. It doesn’t matter if they picked up his option, the false identity effectively voids his contract. Slowey is a 6th starter at best. Adding Burnett and some minor league depth should make them more competitive for 2012.

      BTW-I’m going to add the Carmona tidbit at the end. Forgot to get to that part as I was looking at Hafner.

      • T.O. Chris

        I don’t know about that, at this stage in his career Slowey probably can’t do any worse than Burnett.

        For his career as a starter Slowey has a 4.67 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 4.19 xFIP, a 6.74 K/9 and a 1.43 BB/9. I’d probably take that over Burnett at this point. The trade would make sense only if you are taking on Burnett as the only way to get the prospect, at which point said prospect has to be better than Phelps/Warren/Mitchell to me. Especially when you consider you have to take on two years of Burnett for one year of Hafner. They could get more production from Edwin Jackson for less per year.

        • If Jackson can be had on a 2 year deal, that would make sense. But he’s looking for 5, and I haven’t seen him lower his demands as of yet.

          As far as Slowey vs Burnett, ask yourself this. If both were on the Yankees and they had one spot open in the rotation, who would you prefer? I’d take Burnett, purely on upside. Slowey is the definition of a 6th starter. The prospect is what would put the deal over the top for me if I’m Antonetti. Even as a back end starter that helps me keep my payroll down going forward.

          But that’s only one version of this deal. If the Yanks pick up 8M of the contract (as they said they would) then the Tribe lowers payroll by 5M this year, which could help them add a piece. The ingredients for a deal are there.

          • T.O. Chris

            I’m looking for Megan Fox to hit me back on facebook so we can finally go out on that date, but eventually I’ll have to take the best offer that comes my way like everybody else.

            On contract alone Burnett’s deal demands he starts, however on Talent I’ll take Slowey. I’m tired of using the Burnett upside card, at this point his velocity had diminished 2 MPH off what it was in 08 and 09 and it’s gone down each of the past 5 years. I have no reason to believe he won’t suffer further velocity decline this upcoming season, and since he’s down to 92.7 already I don’t want to see what happens when it goes lower. Sure he still strikes out 8 batters per 9 innings, but he walks 4. Slowey has miniscule walk rates and with our offense he could win the same 10-11 games a year Burnett does. If Burnett’s velocity suddenly picks up back to 94.4 MPH I’ll take him, until then I’ll go with the guy who doesn’t lead the league in walks and wild pitches year in and year out.

            I see why the Yankees would make this trade, Hafner fits the bill pretty well. I just don’t see the huge upside for the Indians. I don’t see the Yankees eating a huge sum of the contract and still giving Phelps or Warren, so they either get a marginal upside prospect or save money while taking on the most erratic pitcher in baseball. Maybe it’s just because I’ve watched AJ actually pitch every 5th day these last 2 years, but maybe if they haven’t played close enough attention to his velocity drop and think they can “fix” something on him they’ll do it. I just know I wouldn’t be taking on both Burnett and Lowe in one offseason if I was a GM. I think they could do better for Hafner.

          • Bill

            I believe the 8M the Yankees offered to pickup was over 2 years, not just in the first year. Either way, if they contributed only 8, the Indians over 2 years would be adding 9.25M net to add a really shitty pitcher. Why would they do that? I would think the only way the Indians consider this deal without a more significant prospect package than what you propose would be if they were saving money in the deal (or at least breaking even), in which case, the Yankees would have to chip in at least 18M, not 8-10M.

      • Bill

        “Slowey is a 6th starter at best”

        So is AJ.

        Slowey over the past two seasons: 5.07 ERA, 4.12 FIP, 4.41 K/BB, 2.6 fWAR
        AJ: 5.2 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 1.98 K/BB, 2.9 fWAR

        Basically both pitchers suck. But, the Indians have players (Slowey) that can approximate AJ’s production in place. Not sure they can replace Hafner’s production as easily. If they are trying to compete this season, this trade really doesn’t make sense for the tribe.

  4. I definitely like the idea of Hafner a lot better than the slop people are tossing around like Damon, Matsui, Vazquez, etc.

  5. Reggie C.

    IF Carmona/Heredia’s contract is indeed void the Indians will definitely be in the market for a starter. I just think that GM Antonelli could do better by simply pursuing Edwin Jackson. Perhaps E-jax ends up signing a 4 year/ 48 million, which wouldn’t be a bad signing imo.

    Hafner is on the Indians’s books for only another season.

    • T.O. Chris

      I wonder how hard it would be to void his contract? First and foremost they can’t do anything until the legal issue itself gets cleared up, and no one knows how long that could take. He’s currently been ordered not to leave the Dominican. I would think he would make it back state side at some point this year, though I have no idea when, and that’s really just a guess on my part. When that does happen though it’ll be interesting to see what the Indians do. He really hasn’t been all that good outside of his one great year, and now he is 31 instead of the 27/28 the Indians thought he was. Plus his actual name isn’t the name on the contract that he signed, so I have absolutely no idea how that affects this situation.

      Certainly will be something interesting to follow. The Marlins are going through something similar with the former “Leo Nunez”.

      • The contract is already void. The name on the contract is fake. That’s a slam dunk to void any deal, anywhere at any time. Even the MLBPA couldn’t fight that.

  6. bpdelia

    Yeah that makes great sennse. Problem is the identity thing does not void the contract. It would take lots of costly litigation to void the contract. I’m thinking the tribe fully plan on flipping hafner but not for a burnett. Hafner has non salary dump value. How about their choice of one of Phelps, Warren, Mitchell crew and one of the high end fast track RP

    prospects the Yankees have smartly stockpiled. I will also include burnett and 6 million. So the get for example Phelps, pinder, burnett and 6 million (to cover half ajs 2013 salary). Or if the lets us choose the Aaa sp and forgo the rp send them 13 million making an a 6 million a year sp. This would basically make this yr and next yrs payroll unchanged for cle but they get an ml ready 4th to 5th sp and a free burnett whom they could pitch until July and hope he can be flipper for something if he pitches passably

    • Bill

      AJ is making 16.5M per year
      33M over 2 years

      For the trade to come out completely even financially for Cleveland, the Yankees would have to include 17.25M

      • That would be true if you were trading a player who adds zero value, but you aren’t. AJ does give you innings, and somebody has to fill up roughly 1500 per year.

        • Bill

          Those are innings that could be filled much cheaper and of comparative quality by Slowey. Just because AJ can post a positive fWAR doesn’t mean the Indians are going to be willing to pay for that when they can get the same or similar production from Slowey. Bottom line, Slowey + Hafner > AJ + whoever the Indians would get to try to replace Hafners production. If the Indians are trying to win now, this trade weakens them. If they are doing this for the future, taking back AJ makes no sense, even if you include Phelps or Warren. If they were playing for the future, they would just insert Phelps or Warren into the rotation to see how he developed rather than using AJ as the fifth starter. This deal makes a ton of sense for the Yankees, but no sense for the Indians, unless they were getting fairly substantial net salary relief as well.

          • bpdelia

            Right. Which is why the more realistic option is say Phelps and pinder for hafner straight. Burnett doesn’t fit here. Then you trade burnett and 15 million to anyone who needs ip. At 7.5 per burnett is about properly valued considering that the typical .5 to 1.0 war ip eater is getting 5 to 6 million. In the nl i think 2 war is very possible for burnett. Even at 1.5 war an is rightly valued around 7.5 million. Obviously you don’t get hafner, in fact you will get a ptbnl org guy. But 15 mil in salary relief pays for hafner or pays for two years of a 1 Ishmael war dh type. I still believe it cashman starts smoking his objectivity pipe 15 million in cash is enough to move aj.

  7. T.O. Chris

    Well the contract is currently not void and thus far they have taken no steps in that direction. Maybe they will at some point, but if he makes it back during spring training they may just decide to keep him for the year and go from there. Plus even if it is void they obviously thought he was worth picking up his 7 million dollar option, maybe they re-sign him for even less.

    This is all up in the air and I’m not willing to lay money on him not being an Indian this year just yet.

  8. He’s a part time DH and has been a 1.5 win player the past 3 years. What would a better offer be, a relief pitcher? They’re loaded with those, but need a starter. I get that AJ isn’t anything to get excited about, but neither is Hafner. I think its a fair deal straight up with the Yanks picking up the $ difference in 2013. We’ll see.

    • T.O. Chris

      Stranger things have happened so I certainly wouldn’t say it couldn’t happen, just mark me down as skeptical from the Indians side for now. Though I would gladly tip my cap to you and say you were right if/when it happens. For what it’s worth I back the move 100%.

    • Using WAR in a vacuum is a recipe for disaster.

  9. bpdelia

    Heh. My kindle turned “1ish” into “1 Ishmael.” I turned auto correct off but the kindle doesn’t give a shit.

    • Bill

      I was wondering wtf Ishmael war was.

  10. Slowey + Hafner > AJ + whoever the Indians would get to try to replace Hafners production

    Bill, you’re messing up your own scenarios. It’s Slowey+Hafner vs AJ+ Hafner’s replacement(ex. Damon)+Slowey. Slowey is still on the team with an AJ deal, and he gives you much needed rotation depth that you don’t have at AAA. If Hafner’s replacement is someone like Damon, you have a two-way DH that also gives you positional flexibility, neither of which you have with Hafner. The Indians are a better team with Slowey/Burnett/Damon than they are with Slowey/Hafner

    • Bill

      so, they’re taking less offense (using Damon instead of Hafner) getting about equal quality pitching, and spending more money (over 2 years) so they can have Slowey in AAA as rotation depth.
      I have to think there is a better way to get AAA rotation depth without weakening the team.
      For example, go the 2011 Yankees route of signing veteran retreads to minor league deals.
      I can’t imagine a team starting with a below average offense would think it is a good idea to trade one of their middle of the order bats for a bad fifth starter.
      I’m not sure how your figuring salaries either. They save 15.75M for Hafner + get 10M from Yankees, but then spend 33M for AJ and another 3-5M?? for Damon. So net over 2 years they are adding 10+M in payroll for lousy AAA rotation depth??? Why not just keep Hafner and Slowey and go after Oswalt??

      • What you’ve never factored in is that Burnett provides value to the Indians. Lots of replacement level innings do carry some value. Fangraphs has it pegged at 6M per year for the last two years. While the Fangraphs numbers can be debated, whatever the number AJ does bring value to the Indians. The Indians don’t get that for free, which is what your scenarios assume with the Yanks picking up his entire salary above Hafner.

      • Bill

        like I said, that’s value they can approximate already using Slowey, just at the expense of rotation depth, which can be added in other ways
        If your going to factor any value AJ brings into the equation, you also have to factor in the value they give up with Hafner
        Both players are old enough to be considered entering (or in AJ’s case already in) there decline years. The general terms I’ve seen for factoring this in is to assume a loss of 0.5 WAR/season (don’t know if this is at all accurate, but I’ve seen this assumption used frequently)
        It appears fangraphs is using about 4.5M/WAR. So factoring decline, AJ would be expected to be worth about 1.5 WAR over the next 2 years (6.75M) with Hafner at 0.8 WAR next season (3.6M) So the Indians would be adding about 3.15M worth of expected net value over 2 years while adding 7.25M in payroll (assuming Yanks kick in 10M)
        It’s also not factoring in needs, the Indians need a middle of the order bat (a need not served by Damon) much more than they need a bad 5th starter.

  11. bpdelia

    Ishmael war is wins above replacement voluminous whaling novels

  12. Joey Spagna

    No way the Mets trade Bay for this piece of crap. Two bad contacts maybe, but Bay can still play left field, Burnett is a sub .500 pitcher on a team that won 97 games last year. He’s not worth 1 million never minf=d his insane current contract.

  13. Steve

    Perfect choice! Makes total sense. Good article.

  14. GeronimoSon

    The comment by “Bill” is simple and clear.. AJ is owed $ 33 MM over two years.. Hafner is owed $ 15.75 MM (includes buyout) for the 2012 season. The addition of the Phelps/Warren/Mitchell ideas, while well meaning, aren’t really the answer to this trade scenario as there are at least five of those guys already in the Indians system. So, the question becomes, how does this deal become “fair”.

    To start with, there doesn’t appear to be a means to achieve a revenue neutral trade as this would breach the $ 189 MM Luxury Tax threshhold the NYY’s are attempting to avoid. So, the $ 17.25 MM suggestion, won’t go.. but a portion of it would be appropriate in terms of what I’ll call a “shopping spree”. Making the assumption that a prospect / player’s value is around $ 3 MM – $ 4 MM, a different kind of deal could be / should be structured:

    AJ Burnett + Cash ($10 MM) plus two “Staten Island” level prospects of the Indians choosing to be selected from: Mason Williams, Dante Bichette Jr, Jose Campos, Tyler Austin, Brandon Pinder, or Thomas Kahnle.

    The list could be expanded.. or could be contracted depending on what may be considered “untouchables”. It should be noted that up to two weeks ago, a guy named Jesus Montero was considered untouchable in the Yankee system. How things change! If the Yankees only want to surrender one prospect instead of two, then add $ 3 MM – $ 4 MM to the amount of cash going with AJ.


  15. Joey Spagna

    I want to eat helen Mirren’s ass in the bullpen.

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