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Indians sign Hafner to three-year deal

Indians sign Hafner to three-year deal

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CLEVELAND -- Travis Hafner knew where his heart was, and it didn't, as an old song said, get left in San Francisco.

No, Hafner's heart is with Cleveland, which is why he decided to forego option years down the road and sign a three-year deal with the Indians. The terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Hafner said he was pleased with the agreement.

"I pretty much love everything about the organization," Hafner said. "The fans have been great to me. ... I love the ballpark. But in the end, it was an easy decision."

It was an easy decision for the organization as well, because as one his strategies, general manager Mark Shapiro had made trying to identify core players and signing most of them long-term a priority.

"We were looking for smart, tough players who respect the game and go about their business the right away," Shapiro said. "Travis embodies a lot of those attributes."

Hafner's agreement binds him to the Indians through 2007, although it also includes a club option for 2008.

Shapiro's signing of Hafner follows the signing last week of catcher Victor Martinez to a similar deal. Both players have proved to be offensive forces in the heart of the Indians lineup, and the team had been expected to move quickly to get both under contract.

"In this case and in Victor's, the players drove the process as much as we wanted it to happen," Shapiro said.

In signing Hafner, the Indians are picking up a hitter whose bat compiled one of the finest offensive seasons for a designated hitter in the history of the organization.

Among DHs last season, he finished second to Red Sox slugger David Ortiz in RBIs (109 to 106), and Hafner's total were the second-most for a designated hitter in franchise history. Andre Thornton knocked in 109 as a DH in 1982.

But Hafner, whom the Tribe picked up in a 2002 trade with the Rangers, did more than knock in runs last season. He batted .311, scored 96 runs and hit 28 homers, which tied him with Casey Blake for the team high.

Among hitters in the American League, Hafner finished ninth in RBIs, third in on-base percentage (.410), fourth in slugging percentage (.583), seventh in extra base hits (72) and 10th in batting average (.311).

Hafner, his "Pronk" imagine notwithstanding, has shown himself to be a heady player who can adjust well.

"I don't want to shatter his imagine by talking about his intelligence, but I will tell you that without a doubt, Travis Hafner is an extremely smart player," Shapiro said. "Even more than that he's a tough player."

Yet those are just part of what prompted the Indians to tie their future to men like Hafner. His understanding of the team and its mission made locking him a solid investment for Shapiro and the organization.

"We felt like the thing [Hafner] most wanted to be rewarded for was team performance and not individual performance," Shapiro said. "He asked if there was any way to get it into the contract.

"Unfortunately, the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not allow for that."

Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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