Jim Cowsert-US PRESSWIRE
Veteran outfielder Torii Hunter is one of the most sought-after free agents this offseason. Should the Tigers try to sign him?
Before everyone has an aneurysm, I figured I should tackle the free agent that everyone wants to see in the home whites next season: Torii Hunter.
Who is he?
Those who followed baseball prior to the 2007 season are very familiar with Hunter, as he spent the first 10+ years of his MLB career patrolling the Metrodome outfield with the Minnesota Twins. Hunter then signed a massive contract with the Los Angeles Angels and has spent the last five years in Anaheim. A beacon of consistency, Hunter has put up solid offensive numbers while playing spectacular defense for over a decade. If age has started to slow him down, we haven't seen it yet. Now 37, one would imagine that Hunter's heart is set on putting himself in the best position possible to win a World Series.
Why should we care?
It would be much easier to list reasons as to why we wouldn't want Hunter on this team, but that part is later on in this post. Hunter is a career .277/.335/.466 hitter who hit .313/.365/.451 in 2012, eclipsing the .300 mark for the first time in his career. He hit 16 home runs, the first time he failed to eclipse the 20-homer mark since 2005. However, I wouldn't be so quick to label this as the inevitable age-related decline in power. Angels Stadium played as an extreme pitcher's park in 2012 and Hunter started 85 games in the #2 spot in the Angels' lineup after years of hitting in the middle of the order.
Speaking of this, Hunter hit .343/.376/.478 in 381 plate appearances in the 2nd spot in 2012. Plugging him 6th or 7th in the order might be the immediate reaction for Jim Leyland (and most fans), but the prospect of putting Hunter between Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera is extremely enticing. He is no longer the guy who stole 111 bases between 2004 and 2009, but his walk rate is much better than Omar Infante's and Andy Dirks excelled in limited action in the 5th and 6th slots in 2012.
As for his defense? Hunter's string of nine straight Gold Gloves ended after the 2009 season, but he is still one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. As you might imagine, his advanced defensive metrics -- UZR, UZR/150, DRS, and range factor -- are all remarkably inconsistent from year to year. One thing is for sure though: he would be a massive defensive upgrade over Brennan Boesch.
Why should we stay away?
He's a savvy veteran who puts up good offensive numbers, plays great defense, and is by all accounts a great team guy. Because of this, someone will undoubtedly overpay for him. Other than that, I've got nothing.
Will he end up in Detroit?
It's definitely possible, but I wouldn't bet on it. Hunter said earlier this season that he would take a pay cut to stay in Los Angeles, and I don't see him reneging on that statement just because the Angels missed the postseason. However, if any team is in the right position to pry Hunter away from L.A., it is the Tigers.