For the first part of the offseason the Pinstriped Bible staff will be grading 35 of the Yankees' main contributors to the 2013 roster. Their entire season will be taken into account, even if part of it came at the minor league level. We continue this series with Travis Hafner.
2013 Statistics: 82 games, .202/.301/.378, 86 wRC+, 12 HR, .302 wOBA, -0.4 fWAR
2014 Contract Status: Free agent
After the Yankees let 40-year-old lefty DH Raul Ibanez walk in free agency, they turned to Hafner to be the team's primary DH in 2013. Despite Hafner's injury history that has plagued him since 2008, the move made plenty of sense. The former Cleveland slugger was still productive over the past four years when healthy (116 wRC+), and he was not nearly as helpless as Ibanez against lefties. It was a very logical high risk/high reward gamble, and on a one-year, $2 million contract it didn't cost the Yankees too much money.
Unfortunately, gambles often end in disaster, and that's exactly how Hafner's season ended. Like Vernon Wells, it started off quite promising, as Pronk appeared resurgent in April. He helped carry the offense during the Yankees' surprising 16-10 month, hitting .318/.438/.667 with six homers. Around mid-May though, Hafner's infamous injury bug began to plague his performance. He started having shoulder problems, and his hitting plummeted.
Hafner's bat was miserable from then on. From May through July, he was an absolute mess at the plate. He hit .167/.249/.286 with 61 strikeouts and just six homers, as many as he previously had in April alone. He was a shadow of his former self, and just an embarrassment at the plate. The designated hitter who can't play the field at all has to, you know, hit, but Hafner could not do it. Nonetheless, the Yankees kept trotting him out there when he was far from productive. After infamously getting attacked by the pitching machine ("The Humbler") in batting practice, he became a mere punchline.
Pronk finally ended up on the DL on July 27th, and that was about it from him in 2013. He randomly returned with a couple meaningless games left in the season and again looked like crap in one game against the Astros. Hafner's 2013 was nothing short of a dumpster fire, and while he only turned 36 in June, he might struggle to find a team who will take another flyer on him. Hot take: it will not be the Yankees.
If this is indeed the end of Hafner's career, 213 homers, a 132 career wRC+, and three seasons spent as one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball is nothing to be ashamed of, although his story will always be plagued by what he could have been if he stayed healthy. Maybe he'll find an AL team hoping for a revival and seeking a spark at DH, or maybe he'll become a 2010-12 Jason Giambi-esque pinch-hitter in the NL.
There's certainly still a chance that someone will sign him in the off-season to give baseball another try, but his future is as unclear as ever. For shit's sake, he was crippled by a friggin' pitching machine.