The Tigers made this writer a happy man today. Early on in all the hot stove talk, I identified Hunter as my personal preference to be the Tigers number one priority. So when the deal was announced this morning, I was quite happy. The questions of course have been raised about the size of the contract for Hunter. Many around Detroit see the two year deal worth 26M dollars as an overpay. It’s not just Detroit either, a lot of fans from other cities see it that way as well.
Overpay? I don’t think so. Even if it turns out that way, does anyone really think this means the Tigers are done working to improve their roster? 13M dollars isn’t likely to stop the Tigers owner Mike Ilitch.
That being said, there are certainly legitimate concerns with Hunter. His inflated BABIP last season made his batting average soar above .300, when he tends to be more of a .280 hitter. His power has been in slight decline for a few years as well. He is going to be 38 next year, and inevitably age has slowed him down some, though he is in great physical shape. But age is about where the negatives stop with Hunter.
Maybe 26M dollars for the actual production on the field that Hunter will provide the Tigers the next two years is an overpay. If you expect a decline in his numbers, that is a fair criticism of spending the kind of money the Tigers spent. The issue I have with that thought process is, Hunter’s value is relative to the team he signed with. For his former employer the Angels, Hunter may have not been worth 26M dollars for the next two years. One, they have younger outfielders that they would like to get on the field. And two, they are targeting Zack Greinke and are trying to build a treasure chest. Point being, Hunter means more to the Tigers.
Torii Hunter signed where he belongs at this point in his career.
The Tigers obviously had a need to find a guy that could not only provide some offense to the team, but could provide some defensive ability at a corner outfield spot as well. No matter any kind of expected decline, Torii Hunter is an upgrade to the current cast of right fielders on the Detroit Tigers roster. His production on the field, and in the 2nd spot in the batting order will be a welcome addition.
For Hunter’s part, being in the twilight of a very good career, he wanted to go to an organization which would afford him the opportunity to win. The Tigers will afford Hunter that chance. Playing in the weakest division in baseball means that there is a very good chance the Tigers are in the mix for the playoffs for the next two years during Hunter’s stay with Detroit. He knows the Central Division well. Essentially, Hunter is not just a good fit for Detroit on their end, but Detroit is a good fit for Hunter on his end. A perfect match.
Hunter’s value extends much beyond just sheer numbers however. He is well known to be valued by his teammates, and is a leader in the clubhouse. For a clubhouse that can lack a little bit of leadership from it’s best players, this is going to be a welcome attribute for the team. Hunter is also known to be good in the community, and will likely integrate himself nicely into many of the city of Detroit’s social programs. It never hurts to add a well respected individual to a team and city.
The last thing I want to point out may be the most important. Torii Hunter sought out the Tigers. He wanted to be a Detroit Tiger. He saw the Tigers as the best opportunity for him and made it happen. And the Tigers were smart enough to work out a deal with him. That is a big deal to a team and a city that not so long ago, every decent free agent around did all they could to avoid.
Welcome to Detroit Torii Hunter, I know that I for one, couldn’t be happier that you made the right move and became a Detroit Tiger today.