UPDATE: Acta wasn’t kidding about Hafner returning this week. He’s in tonight’s lineup, batting sixth for the Indians.
Travis Hafner has been out since August 5 with a back injury and has been limited to just 60 games this year, but manager Manny Acta said yesterday that he’s “optimistic” the 35-year-old designated hitter will rejoin the Indians’ lineup at some point this week.
Assuming the Indians decline his $13 million option for 2013 this is the final season of Hafner’s four-year, $57 million contract, which means it’s also likely his final season in Cleveland after spending most of that time on the disabled list with an assortment of injuries.
When healthy Hafner has never ceased being productive, posting an OPS above .800 in each of the past four seasons, but he hasn’t played 100 games since 2010 and hasn’t played 120 games since 2007. It’d be nice to see “Pronk” contribute a few big hits as a proper sendoff.
The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.
Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.
Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.