Yesterday, we heard that the Yankees are interested in Travis Hafner for their DH position. At first glance, this flies in the face of what we’ve heard the Yankees say they want out of a DH; Hafner is completely incapable of playing a position, even first. To boot, he’s also something the Yankees may want to avoid: a platoon player. Despite those shortcomings, Hafner is a good fit for the 2013 Yankees.
The most obvious reason is the fact that there will be no multi-year commitment required to get Hafner on board. Second, he’s a left handed hitter. That void is the biggest one the Yankees have to fill right now, excluding their catching situation. However, since literally nothing seems to be brewing on that front, we’ll have to be content with patching up the hole in the DH dike. And while platoon players are not the most desirable thing in the baseball world, one who’s going to be on the heavy side is more welcomed. As a lefty hitter, Hafner would be getting a large amount of plate appearances (provided that he’s healthy, which is a question in and of itself). What’s more, Hafner is solid when facing opposite handed pitchers. Last year, Hafner was solid against right handed pitching. His average–.241–wasn’t all that hot. However, he had a wonderful 12.6 walk rate against righty pitchers and tagged them to a .196 Iso (.437 SLG). All told, Hafner put up a .348 wOBA and 123 wRC+ against righties in 2012. Those marks are slighty better than what Raul Ibanez (.343/115) did against righties last season. Lastly, and most importantly, Hafner adds something that the Yankees, as currently constructed, don’t have a ton of….power.
It’s a little weird to say that the Yankees aren’t swimming in power right now, and they certainly have more power than the average team, even with Alex Rodriguez on the shelf. However, with the losses of Nick Swisher and Russell Martin, the team has lost power in spots where it formerly had power. That loss means they’ll need to recoup power in traditional spots, including DH. The Bombers are likely to get very few homers from their corner outfield spots (unless they swap Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson) so getting a boost from DH will be of the utmost importance. Hafner gives the Yankees whate they lost in both Swisher and Martin: patience and power. He’s got his warts, but out of all the options out there for DH, Pronk makes the most sense.