The connection between Travis Hafner and the Yankees starts almost 12 months ago. Before signing Raul Ibanez, a Hafner trade was one of the most popular and realistic rumors around the internet. Obviously that didn't happen, but back in November I hinted at the Yankees again trying for the left-hander on the free agent market. Only two weeks ago, Brad proposed the same thing, then Matt took a look at him yesterday, and now we have rumors, confirmation, and pretty much a done deal with the designated hitter.
In Brad's piece about Hafner, he discusses why his bat would fit well into this team. At 36 years old next season, Hafner was looking to join a competitive team, as he has yet to win a World Series. He's willing to settle for a reduced role at DH, since his injury history has prevented him from playing in nearly half his games over the last 5 years. Outside of his desire to join the Yankees, his platoon advantage would be perfect in his role against right-handed pitchers inside Yankee Stadium.
In 2012, Hafner hit right-handed pitchers for a .241/.361/.437 slash line, a 123 wRC+, along with a 15.7 K% and 12.6 BB%. In his career, he's hit righties for a 143 wRC+, and owns a .247 ISO and 13.2 BB% against them. His regression in the 2012 season stems from differences in his batted ball rates, particularly his line drive rate, which fell from a career 19.9% to 17.1% in 2012. While the drop off correlates with his age and injuries, the difference isn't necessarily significant, and could be small sample size. With that said, his .233 BABIP in 2012 was .080 points lower than his career .313 average, and just about .100 points lower than 2011.
Hafner does a good job of sending the ball to all fields, and over his career 39% of all hits have gone to right field, 36% have gone to center, and 25% have gone to left. While he has power to all fields, his ISO when pulling the ball is an incredible .411, slightly better than Mark Teixeira's .352 ISO as a lefty to right field. He should enjoy hitting the ball over the right field porch, although Progressive Field does have it's benefits for left-handed hitters as well.
Overall, signing Hafner is a solid addition, as he walks and hits the Yankee way. One problem with this signing is that this is a team that could use the DH position for a number of other players. With Hafner taking up a spot on the 25 man roster with no position to play, there will be less room for a utility type player or additional outfielders. There are pro's and con's to every signing, but adding Hafner doesn't hurt the team as long as they can properly maneuver the older players around the lineup.