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

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

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


"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

"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

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

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

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.