Four-year contract extension worth $57 million

Indians Manager Eric Wedge predicted Sunday that Travis Hafner was in for a big second half of the season. If concern over his contract situation is indeed what has been occupying Hafner’s thoughts and curtailing his production, Wedge’s prediction might be right on the money.


The Indians are expected to announce a four-year, $57-million contract extension for their 30-year-old designated hitter today. The club could not confirm the extension, but did confirm that a press conference will take place this afternoon.


Is it money well spent? That won’t be known for some time yet.


Hafner became one of the most feared hitters in the American League last season, when he hit .308 with 42 home runs, drove in 117 runs and led the league in on-base plus slugging percentage (1.098).


The man called “Pronk” had not been nearly as potent through the first half of the 2007 season, however. He is batting .262 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs. Hafner hit .228 in May and .218 in June, but appeared to be coming out of it in July (.303) through Sunday’s first-half finale in Toronto.


He has also battled injuries during his five years in Cleveland, with trips to the disabled list in 2003 and 2005, elbow surgery following the 2004 season and missing the final 29 games of 2006 with a broken hand. Elbow problems have limited him to fewer than a dozen games at first base in the last two seasons.


Hafner was to earn $3.75 million this year, and the Indians held a $4.75-million option for 2008. He would have been eligible for free agency after 2008.


At least two media outlets were reporting Wednesday night that his base salaries for both years would be increased, then added to $11 million apiece in 2009 and 2010 and $13 million in 2011 and 2012.


The deal also reportedly includes a club option for 2013.


The Indians and Hafner’s agent, Scott Parker of Legacy Sports, had talked during spring training. Those discussions were tabled at the end of the spring when no agreement could be reached. The dialogue apparently resumed during the All-Star break. Legacy Sports is located in San Francisco, where Tuesday’s All-Star Game took place.


The signing of Hafner would be the latest in a series of moves by the team to lock up their talented core players with multiyear contracts. Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Grady Sizemore and Jake Westbrook have all signed similar deals within the last two years.


C.C. Sabathia is still eligible to declare free agency following the 2008 season.


The Indians resume play Friday against Kansas City at Jacobs Field.


Reach Canton Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail andy.call@cantonrep.com.