There was a time from 2004 through 2007 when David Ortiz and Travis Hafner were considered the top two designated hitters in the American League. While Ortiz was able to remain relatively healthy and productive through the 2012 season, Hafner has beset with injuries and has not been able to produce at the same level as he had during his solid four year run.
Hafner, presently a free agent, has a number of factors that are working against him in his quest for a new contract. First, he is going to turn 36 during the middle of the season, and, given his injury history over the past few seasons, is not someone that could likely be counted on as an every day performer. Second, Hafner is strictly a designated hitter, having not played in the field whatsoever since the 2007 season. As interleague play is going to be a season long part of the schedule, this could be considered yet another drawback for any team potentially interested in taking a chance on him.
Last season, Hafner struggled with the bat, hitting only .228 last season with 6 doubles and 12 home runs. Inexplicably, Hafner also hit his first two triples since 2007. However, he has still hit for power when healthy, with 38 home runs and 51 doubles in 940 at bats over the past three years. Extrapolating his production over 162 games, he was projected to average a slash line of .267/.363/.447 with 23 home runs and 30 doubles.
Even though the likelihood of Hafner being able to play even 140 games in a season is minimal at best, he could still be a potential power bat for a team looking for additional thunder in the middle of the lineup. As his production tailed off last season, and his continual injury problems, Hafner may be looking at a one year deal with minimal financial risk to the team.
As the Rays do presently have an opening at designated hitter, the low monetary risk and potential for Hafner to outperform the financial obligations of such a deal may be quite enticing. In fact, the Rays may be the ideal place for Hafner to attempt to recapture his status as a feared slugger, as Joe Maddon has a tendency to play everyone on the roster. With that being the case, Hafmer may end up with four or five starts a week, and could potentially receive enough rest to avoid the injury bug that has plagued him over the past few years.
Travis Hafner could fill a need for the Rays lineup, and could likely be acquired at minimal cost. With the possible upside to such a signing, Hafner may be someone the Rays look at to fill out that final hole in the lineup.