The name Torii Hunter can evoke a lot of different emotions from Detroit Tigers fans. Love, anger, envy, but most would agree that over his 16 year big league seasons, Hunter has had a great career and is a great talent.
Hunter is officially a free agent for the second time in his career after spending five years on the west coast playing for the Los Angeles Angels. In his five years with the Halos, Hunter put up very respectable numbers, posting a .286 average while belting 105 home runs and driving in 432 runs.
The Tigers are in the market for a corner outfielder, and with Michael Bourn looking to get a 100 million — a Scott Boras client — Hunter could be the cheaper alternative.
Hunter would also bring in a lot of the same skill set Bourn would bring. Bourn is a great defender, but an older Hunter is still one of the best outfielders in baseball.
With nine Gold Gloves to his name, Hunter would provide a great glove, and arm in the outfield, especially along side an already Gold Glove caliber centerfielder in Austin Jackon. Essentially with those guys the Tigers’ outfield defense will never have to be questioned.
Hunter’s career slash line reads .277/.335/.466/.801. Even though he is a career .277 hitter, he hit .313 last year with Albert Pujols hitting behind him. And hitting in front of the Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, would really help the cause of Hunter hitting over .300 for a second straight year.
If you look at Hunter’s OBP, it is just over league average (league average is .331). But last year Hunter posted a career high in that mark, putting up a .365 OBP.
An outstanding glove and another potential .300 hitter in the Tigers’ lineup sounds really good going into the 2013 season. Now there are a few things that scare me about Hunter: he is getting older so his production may start falling off. Hunter’s walk rate was at it’s lowest point since 2005 when he walked only 38 times, and he struck out more this past season than any other time in his career.
Even though there is a few red flags, Hunter would be well worth the gamble of a two year 18 to 20 million dollar contract. The Tigers would bring in a great defender, a solid hitter, and it would work well for the immediate future.
The Tigers currently have their future corner outfielder in the minor leagues. Nick Castellanos could be up in September of 2013 and could be ready for his first full major league season in 2014. Hunter plays all of 2013, gives Castellanos another year to develop then in 2014 when Hunter is in his last year of his deal, Castellanos can learn from him and be ready to take over the outfield for the next 15 seasons.