In November, as the Yankees celebrate their 28th World Series championship with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes, remember the date February 1, 2013. That is the date the Yankees announced the signing of Travis Hafner—and their 2013 starting lineup officially became stacked.
Although the acquisition of Hafner managed to fly beneath the radar, it was a signature stealth maneuver by savvy GM Brian Cashman that bolsters a 2013 Yankees batting order already bursting with firepower.
Hafner's career numbers come at righty hurlers like Popeye after eating a can of spinach (2,619 at bats, 152 homers, .534 slugging percentage, .925 OPS). Even during an injury-shortened 2012 campaign, he managed to drill eight homers against them in only 158 at bats (one per 19.75 at bats).
His best season came in 2006. The muscular Hafner launched 42 homers to go with a .308 batting average and 117 RBI. Perhaps even more eye-popping are those totals were produced in only 454 at bats. His .659 slugging average and .1097 OPS led the league.
Along with Hafner's tremendous power comes a brilliant batting-eye. His career .381 on-base average and uncanny ability to draw walks (twice drawing 100 or more) paints pitchers into a corner while lengthening the lineup.
For those questioning Hafner's power entering the season at age 35, one looks no further than the shot he hit on April 15, 2012. Off Kansas City Royals starter Luis Mendoza, Hafner hit a blast estimated at 456 feet. It was the longest home run hit at Kauffman Stadium since 2001.
Cashman's slick decision to bring Hafner on board comes with minimal risk, considering the explosive upside. Hafner signed a one-year deal for $2 million.
If healthy, expect Hafner's market value to shoot through the roof, following a championship season at Yankee Stadium—where even one of his chip-shots could easily find the short porch in right field.
Adding to the beauty of the Hafner signing is that he enters the 2013 season with something to prove. He's a man on a mission to reestablish himself as one of MLB's most potent power threats.
As a member of a Yankees lineup loaded with talent, Hafner will have more than ample protection to achieve big-time numbers once again. His presence can rocket the numbers of his teammates, as well.
With the addition of a rejuvenated Hafner, it is difficult to imagine opposing pitchers making it through the Yankees lineup without getting marked up consistently.
Added to a lineup that already includes Jeter, Cano, Suzuki, Teixeira, Granderson and Youkilis, Hafner makes it nearly impossible for pitchers to escape unscathed. And then, there is still A-Rod looming come June.
Considering risk and reward, Cashman's signing of Travis Hafner could be this offseason's best move towards another New York Yankees championship season in 2013.