Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers’ front office usually like to attack their offseason early. Aside from the Prince Fielder signing last year, Dombrowski usually goes after his targets in November and early December. And it appears that is the case again this year. That target is free agent outfielder Torii Hunter.
Hunter was in Detroit Tuesday to meet with the Tigers’ brass and from all accounts there is strong mutual interest between both parties. Jon Paul Morosi of foxsports.com has been told that ”there’s a good chance Torii Hunter will sign with the Tigers, unless his hometown Rangers make a push — which is very possible.”
That corresponds with what Danny Knobler of cbssports.com has been told. Knobler reported that Hunter “wants to play” for the Tigers and the team “badly” wants to sign Hunter. Knobler also referenced Carlos Beltran’s contract with the St. Louis Cardinals prior to last season as a foundation for the Tigers’ talks with Hunter. Beltran signed a two-year $26 million deal.
Hunter has expressed a desire to sign with a World Series contender. Also working in the Tigers’ favor is that Hunter’s son, Torii Jr., has committed to play football at Notre Dame.
The Tigers view Hunter as their projected two-hole hitter and right fielder. The nine-time Gold Glover, most of them coming with the Twins in center field, hit .343 with .854 OPS in 381 plate appearances last season batting second ahead of Albert Pujols with the Angels.
My take: I definitely like Torii Hunter as a player. He’s solid across the board but not spectacular in any facet anymore. I don’t think you can expect him to hit .313 again like he did last year, but I think he’ll hit better than his career .277 batting average. I think you can count on 18 home runs or so and 80-90 RBIs. He still has a stellar glove and will run down some balls in the right center field gap at Comerica. And he’s also one of the most likable guys in the league.
I’m just surprised that the Tigers are this hot on him and aren’t seeking a left-handed bat (Melky Cabrera) to fill the two-hole. Leyland has never been one to go with three consecutive hitters from the same side of the plate. This would give them Austin Jackson, Hunter and Miguel Cabrera 1-3. Two years for $26M is a little too rich for my blood, but I suspect the two sides to settle around two for $20. That is, if it happens. But it’s looking like it will.