Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner hasn’t played first base since 2007 and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. According to John Barone of MLB.com, the one they call “Pronk” will be limited to pinch-hitting duties during the Tribe’s upcoming nine-game interleague road trip.
The expedition through National League ballparks begins Friday, when the Indians open a three-game series against the Pirates. The club will travel from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia for a three-game set, then it’s off to Cincinnati to wrap things up. Hafner may get around nine at-bats over that span, if he’s lucky.
“It wouldn’t be fair to him,” manager Manny Acta said on the topic of Hafner possibly playing the field. “What are we going to do? Hit
him one million grounders today so he’ll be ready tomorrow? He doesn’t
get defensive work.”
Hafner entered Thursday hitting .258/.372/.438 with eight home runs and 26 RBI over 194 at-bats. He’s 9-for-24 with two doubles, four homers and eight RBI over his past eight games. A prolonged hot streak will have to wait.
The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.
Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.
Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.