During the off-season, the Yankees decided to let 2012 playoff hero Raul Ibanez walk via free agency to the Mariners. The Yankees then signed former Indians slugger Travis Hafner to replace him. I was a fan of both moves at the time. Outside of a few big home runs, Ibanez was pretty average. Meanwhile, Hafner was always known as a guy who could hit but couldn't stay healthy. Unfortunately, in regards to him being an offensive threat, the exact opposite has happened this season.
After last night's 0-for-3, the man known as "Pronk" is down to .217/.316/.409, good for a 97 wRC+, on the season. Conversely, DH's around the league are hitting .252/.332/.421 with a 105 wRC+. Following an incredibly hot April, Hafner is hitting .181/.265/.313 in his last 50 games. The Yankees have gotten below-average production out of Hafner this season, and way below-average production out of him the last 10 weeks, which is something that needs to change.
A positive with Hafner is that he's stayed pretty healthy (at least to his standards) so far. Outside of some minor shoulder and back injuries, Hafner being healthy is quite shocking in and of itself considering he missed nearly 400 games the previous five seasons prior to 2013. However, although it appears he may be healthy enough to play right now, it would come as no surprise if he is dealing with some nagging injury, whether it be the shoulder or back, or what have you, that could be impacting his play.
If this is the case, Hafner should be on the DL instead of fighting through injury. Not only would he be hurting himself by playing hurt, he'd be hurting the team as well. On the flip side, he could be going through a really bad two-plus month stretch, or even worse, he could be done altogether; at age 36, it's not inconceivable that he is finished as a productive hitter. The Yankees gave him a $2M contract last off-season to do one thing: hit. Hitting is something Hafner hasn't done in months and although the Yankees have said they aren't looking to make a change at DH, they should at least consider it.
The internal options to potentially replace Hafner, to say the least, aren't great. On the big league roster there's ... Vernon Wells, who has been alright of late (.353/.353/.412 last 34 PA's). Girardi could bench Hafner in favor of Wells for a few games, just to clear the former's mind. The Yankees could have Travis Ishikawa DH as well. In the minors, there's Dan Johnson, who is currently hitting .251/.383/.427 in 87 games for the Scranton RailRiders. The Yankees could DL Hafner and call up Johnson, though a 40-man roster move would need to be made to get the latter on the roster. Finally, the Yankees could simply DFA Hafner (unlikely) and acquire an upgrade *cough* Kendrys Morales, but who really knows if the Yankees are willing to take on the money/give up minor league talent to acquire said upgrade.
No matter what the Yankees do with Hafner, it is imperative that they get production out of the DH position sooner rather than later. DH is not only an offense-first position, it's an offense-only position, and if the team wants to stick around in the AL East race they'll need to fix this gaping hole at DH since they have enough holes almost everywhere else as it is.