The New York Yankees biggest need might be a right-handed bat who can spell Brett Gardner or Ichiro Suzuki in the outfield against left-handed pitching and serve as a DH. However, with few options remaining the Yankees are now turning their attention to finding the best available bat to serve as a DH.
There are various reports floating around that the Yankees are in talks with 34-year-old DH Travis Hafner. Last season Hafner hit .228/.346/.438 with the Cleveland Indians in 219 at-bats. Hafner is a shell of his former self that saw him slug .308/.439/.659 with 42 homers and 117 RBIs in 2006 when he was considered one of the best hitters in the game. Injuries have sapped Hafner in recent seasons as he has appeared in over 100 games only once since 2008, appearing in 118 in 2010.
Hafner will turn 36 this season and has been battling shoulder and back issues for years. The Indians bought him out rather than pay him the $13 million he was owed. However, he is a lefty bat with some power and an ability to get on base that should see him do well in Yankee Stadium if he can stay healthy.
Right now, Hafner is looking for a Major League deal and several teams have expressed interest in Hafner, but many are believed to only be offering a minor league deal. The Yankees lost their DH from last season when Raul Ibanez signed with the Seattle Mariners this off-season. Hafner also fits the Yankees desire to keep any free agent contracts they hand out to one-year as they attempt to obtain financial flexibility beyond the 2014 season by getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold next season.
If the Yankees and Hafner can agree to a deal, he should be an asset as long as he can stay healthy. However, unlike the man he is taking over from, Raul Ibanez, Hafner can’t play the field under any circumstances. That might not be ideal for the Yankees moving forward, but Hafner is arguably the best option available given the Yankees limited budget and their needs.