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. 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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.