Hafner and Indians agree to $57M, four-year extension

Updated: July 12, 2007, 7:21 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- Travis Hafner shrugs off the idea that unfinished contract negotiations contributed to his first-half slump.

Even if they did, the soft-spoken slugger from Sykeston, N.D., who signed a $57 million, four-year extension Thursday, would never blame them for his performance the last couple months.

Travis Hafner

Hafner

"To me that's just an excuse," Hafner said. "When I come to the park every day, my goal is to work hard and prepare for that night's game. All the other stuff is something you don't even worry about. I feel like that had nothing to do with it."

The deal keeps the designated hitter with the club through 2012. He was making $3.95 million this year, and Cleveland had a 2008 option for a minimum $4.95 million. Under the new deal, he will receive more money next year. The new agreement includes a team option for 2013.

The 30-year-old Hafner is batting .262 with 14 homers and 57 RBIs this season after hitting .308 last year with 42 homers and 117 RBIs.

While he wouldn't call the contract talk a distraction, Hafner said he's pleased to be able to focus on baseball for the remainder of the season. The Indians, at 52-34, have one of the best records in the league and are looking for their first playoff appearance since 2001.

"I feel like I'm going to have a good second half," Hafner said. "I want to be a guy who's going to be a huge part of the offense."

Calling Hafner one of the city's "sports treasures," general manager Mark Shapiro said Hafner's combination of talent and character make him a unique player that the Indians wanted to keep.

"We're fortunate to have Haf as a core part of our team," he said.

Hafner joins a group of Indians players who have signed multiyear deals, including pitcher Jake Westbrook, catcher Victor Martinez and outfielder Grady Sizemore.

"We've got a bunch of superstars in that room and very few egos," Shapiro said.

Hafner, known for his offbeat sense of humor and interests that range from pro wrestling to chess, said testing the free agent market after 2008 didn't appeal to him because he couldn't imagine playing anywhere else.

His agent, Scott Parker, talked to the Indians during spring training but couldn't finish the deal. Hafner said there wasn't a lot of work to do when talks resumed over the All-Star break.

"We were so close in spring training. We had a chance to get it done now," Hafner said. "I knew I wanted to be here, so the opportunity presented itself. I really wanted to sign and stay here."

The Indians acquired Hafner from Texas in December 2002 for catcher Einar Diaz and pitcher Ryan Drese. He said the transition to Cleveland from his small-town upbringing in North Dakota suited him. It's also where he met his wife, Amy, whose local ties were another reason to stay.

Hafner is the second player the Indians have locked up this season. In April, Westbrook signing a three-year, $33 million extension through 2010.

They're also interested in signing All-Star C.C. Sabathia to an extension. Sabathia is also represented by Parker, who said he doesn't expect talks to start until the offseason. The left-hander will be a free agent after the 2008 season.

"We're pleased with how it's turned out so far and we're not done," said Indians president Paul Dolan.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press