Cleveland Indians: The Five Worst Moves by Mark Shapiro

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Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

#5: The Travis Hafner & Jake Westbrook Extensions

Heading into the 2007 season the Indians had three key members that were facing free agency in the near future, as  Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook, and CC Sabathia were all looking at free agency by the end of the 2008 season.  Shapiro had already gotten Sabathia to agree to an extension prior to 2006 (when he could have become a free agent originally) so another one always seemed like a long-shot.  Him eventually winning the 2007 Cy Young virtually cemented that he was going to leave for a huge contract.

Travis Hafner was not too far behind Sabathia, if any, heading into the 2007 season in terms of impact on the field.  He was coming off back-to-back 1.000+ OPS seasons and top 10 MVP finishes.  He hit 42 home runs and drove in 117 runs in just 129 games in 2006 while leading the American League in SLG, OPS, and OPS+.  He was still just 29 when 2007 started and while the season was a “down year” for him, he still managed to hit 24 home runs, drive in 100 runs and post an OPS north of .830.  During the All-Star break Mark Shapiro and the Indians rewarded Hafner with a 4-year, $57M contract, which is still to this day the most guaranteed money the Indians have ever handed out in a player contract. 

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Unfortunately for the Indians, Hafner would never again play in more than 120 games in a season following that 2007 season. In fact, he only played in more than 94 games once (118 in 2010).  His bat was still effective though for the most part, as from 2009-2012 he never posted an OPS+ lower than 120.  However, for a small market club, spending over $10M on an injury prone DH-only was a burden the team simply couldn’t carry.

Jake Westbrook was perhaps an even more frustrating case for Tribe fans.  After winning 44 games in the previous three seasons he signed what most considered and extremely team friendly 3-year, $33M extension in April of 2007.  After a minor injury in 2007, he managed to finish the season strong and was a key member of the Tribe’s playoff rotation. He won Game 3 of the ALCS and put the Tribe in a position to come back and win Game 7 before the bullpen let the game slip away. However, that was essentially the last of the good pitching Tribe fans would see out of Westbrook in an Indians uniform…

Westbrook made just five starts in 2008 before eventually having Tommy John Surgery.  He missed the rest of the season and had a few setbacks in his recovery and ended up missing all of 2009 as well.  Two of the first three seasons of that “team friendly” three-year extension got the Indians 34 innings out of Westbrook.  He did manage to get healthy for 2010 but after posting a 4.65 ERA and 4.64 FIP in 21 starts he was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals in a three-team trade with the San Diego Padres. Westbrook was an impending free agent as getting something for him seemed better than nothing… 

Next: #4: Trading Coco Crisp