The Return of Power?

The Indians still are without a definite designated hitter for the 2013 and have apparently been linked to two former Indians players, Travis Hafner and Jim Thome. In what is a sad state of events for Hafner, both players are essentially at the same point in their career, despite Pronk starting his career over a decade after Thome. Both players have seen decreases in playing time in recent years with neither player playing in more than 100 games since 2010. If the Indians did sign one of the two former Tribesmen, he should be expected to have at least two stints on the disabled list and not be able to play in more than three consecutive games and never in the field.

As much as bringing either former great back into the fold would warm the hearts of Indians fans, the move just doesn't make sense logically at any price. Picture this prospective situation: Pronk/Thome plays DH for game one of a series with Mark Reynolds at first and Carlos Santana catching. The next game would feature Reynolds at DH, Santana at first and Lou Marson/Yan Gomes at catcher. The third game would see Reynolds and Santana back at their prospective positions with either Nick Swisher or the Pronk/Thome combination at DH. Either way the Indians would handle the situation, the new DH would be likely to play in 60 or less games.

The Indians have no obvious great in house options, but given a chance there are a few players who could surprise if given even those 60 games that the Indians would otherwise be overpaying for. Below is a chart that takes a weighted average of the last five years for both Hafner and Thome and the last three seasons (mostly minor league) for two other players. The numbers have been standardized to see what they would produce in 60 games.

 

Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO
Hafner 60 205 24 54 11 0 9 31 26 47
Thome 60 183 26 47 9 0 12 34 32 60
Option 1 60 202 26 57 16 1 9 36 16 54
Option 2 60 215 39 56 12 0 9 35 34 51

These numbers are incredibly close and are all probably over estimates of how these players will perform. The question is, how much are the Indians willing to pay for a player that will at most hit ten home runs and strike out 50 times. The two options listed below are Yan Gomes and Chris McGuiness in that order. McGuiness has never played above the AA level, but is a rule 5 pick, meaning he has to be on the 25 man roster or be relinquished to his old team. If the Indians sign either Hafner or Thome there will likely not be room on the roster for McGuiness. 

Gomes on the other hand should make the roster either way and unlike McGuiness, has had some Major League experience. He is also more versatile, being able to play catcher, first or DH, making him fit in well in the Santana/Reynolds rotation.

No other teams have been linked with either Hafner or Thome to this point. In fact, the Orioles, Astros and Yankees have all announced that they have no interest in the 42 year old DH, despite having holes on their rosters. Because of that, both players have no market driving their price up, although either could decide to retire rather than play for the league minimum. The Indians can't afford to take on a pity player, monetarily or in roster space.

If the Indians do decide to pick one of the two aging players, Thome seems to be the better fit. It would allow him to retire as an Indian (again) cementing his place in the Hall of Fame as a Clevelander, making him even more worthy of the statue being built for him in centerfield. He also is miraculously less injury prone than Hafner despite the longer career and has produced more in the past few seasons. The final benefit of bringing Thome back would be an increase in jersey and ticket sales for nostalgia's sake. This would help pay for his salary, but will not likely last longer than the first month or so, unless he produces enough to deserve his place on the team.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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