Hafner, Tribe agree to four-year, $57 million deal
CLEVELAND — The Indians will begin the second half on a positive note without even playing a game.
Cleveland is expected to announce the signing of Travis Hafner to a long-term contract extension today, a day before the Indians open the second half of the season in the first of a three-game series with Kansas City at Jacobs Field on Friday.
The two sides reportedly reached an agreement Wednesday night that will pay Hafner $57 million over four years, keeping the designated hitter in Cleveland through the 2012 season.
The two sides negotiated a multiyear contract during spring training but talks were tabled when a deal was not reached, with Hafner reportedly turning down an offer worth $60 million over six years. Discussions picked up again over the All-Star break with Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro and Hafner’s agent with the Legacy Sports Group, Scott Parker, negotiating by phone.
Shapiro refused to comment on the discussions over the break but they apparently went well with the deal expected to be announced this afternoon. The Indians will hold a workout at Jacobs Field today in preparation for the second half, which they enter trailing first-place Detroit by a game in the Central Division standings.
As part of the contract, the Indians reportedly increased Hafner’s salary this season (from $3.75 million), while exercising his $4.75 million option for the 2008 season and increasing that as well. The last four years of the contract will be worth $48 million — $11 million apiece in 2009-10 and $13 million apiece in 20011-12.
Hafner, 30, struggled to a .262 batting average with
14 home runs and 57 RBIs in 84 first-half games, but has been the Indians’ top run producer over the past three seasons, batting over .300 with at least 28 homers and 108 RBIs from 2004-06.
Hafner joined the Indians in an offseason trade with the Texas Rangers prior to the 2003 season for pitcher Ryan Drese and catcher Einar Diaz. He has become one of Cleveland’s core players, along with center fielder Grady Sizemore, pitcher C.C. Sabathia and catcher Victor Martinez.
With Hafner in the fold, the team has signed two of its three primary potential free agents, agreeing to a three-year, $33 million deal with pitcher Jake Westbrook earlier this season. Sabathia, who is eligible for free agency following the 2008 season, is still unsigned and figures to be the most difficult and expensive acquisition.
“It would be huge (if a deal is reached for Hafner),” Sabathia told reporters from the All-Star Game in San Francisco. “I would be happy. I would definitely take that as a good sign about getting something done with me. Everybody wants to stay. The core of this team has been together for a long time. We’ve been through a lot together, and we want to bring a championship to Cleveland together.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Kansas City at Cleveland
WHEN: Friday, 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Westbrook (1-4, 6.27 ERA) vs. Perez (4-8, 5.68)
TV/RADIO: STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM