Your newest member of the Detroit Tigers is Torii Hunter! Or at least that’s my best guess at this point. Some people who are ‘in the know’ have indicated that Hunter is most likely going to land with the Tigers or the Texas Rangers.
Hunter is 37 (turns 38 in July) and will likely get a 2-year contract, wherever he lands, for approximately $10M/year. Hunter says, “It’s not about money. I’ve made money. I want a ring.” And he means it. So naturally his top 2 suitors are the teams that have represented, and ultimately failed, the American League in the last 2 World Series.
Hunter has indicated that he will end his free agency at the earliest possible moment. As in likely before or just after Thanksgiving, which means we’ll know his destination very soon.
Torii Hunter might be patrolling Comerica Park’s outfield in 2013
And if you don’t like Torii Hunter, then you just don’t like baseball. He is everything good about the game. He smiles, he leads both on and off the field, he takes care of his body, he produces like he’s 27, not 10 years older. And he should be the Tigers’ #2 hitter next April.
Last night MLB Network discussed the possibility of him joining the Tigers and showed a projected lineup that had Quintin Berry hitting 2nd, Hunter 5th, and Victor Martinez 6th. Sorry, guys. That’s not how it would go down. Hunter would slam shut the revolving door that has been the #2 spot in the Tigers’ order the past few years.
Hunter’s 2012 stats, as good as they were, should be taken with a grain of salt. He hit .313 for the season. He had never hit higher than .299 during his 15-year career. He drove in 92 runs, his most since 2007. Those are the main 2 stats his proponents will call out when urging the Tigers to sign him up.
Detractors will note that he whiffed 133 times in 2012, the most K’s he’s ever produced. He hit 16 homers, which while not a terrible number, was the lowest he’s ever put up in a non-injury season. Hunter’s batting average a season ago was boosted by a .389 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). That number represents his highest output ever, by a wide margin. The best he’s ever done aside from that was a .336 BABIP and that was in an injury-shortened season 12 years ago. His lifetime BABIP is just .307.
Getting cold feet yet? To pair Hunter up behind Austin Jackson, which is surely what the Tigers would do, would be a boom or bust scenario. Both players strike out frequently but do damage when they make contact. When they’re hot the Tigers would be virtually unstoppable.
But when they’re cold, well, we Tiger fans don’t have to think back too far to know how ugly that can get…
The lesson here is to not buy a .313 average and 92 RBI’s. What the Tigers would likely be buying would be something more like a .280 hitter, 15 homers, 70 RBI’s, and single-digit steals, which is the former speedsters new norm.
But guess what? With the other intangibles that Hunter brings to the mix, it’s good enough. His defense is superb. He played a dynamic right field last year for the Angels and put it on full display when his team visited Comerica Park last summer. He is the ultimate clubhouse guy, which would put him in great company alongside a host of other Tigers.
But what’s more is that it’s only a 2-year deal that he’ll require. On this site I have discussed other names such as Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera, and Justin Upton as potential acquisitions. Aside from Hunter, only Melky would not tie up one of the Tigers’ corner outfield spots for years to come. Spots that have been earmarked for future stars Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos.
And therein rests the beauty of Hunter. He would provide the perfect bridge and protect the farm system all while playing at a high level. When his deal is up both Garcia and Castellanos should be fully ready to contribute at the Major League level without fear of being ‘rushed’.
And for this same reason, if Hunter goes to Texas (where he keeps his offseason home), then Melky might be the next best fit, despite his PED transgressions this past summer.
But for now, Hunter appears to be the Tigers’ main target. His son is heading up to Notre Dame to play football, which gives Hunter an awfully convenient excuse to play deep into October with a team just a few hours northeast of South Bend.