Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Hot Stove: Is Torii Hunter a fit?
By Richard Durrett
Torii Hunter's name was in the news Monday, thanks to an appearance on MLB Network where he says he wants to make a quick decision on his future. Hunter isn't one who likes to sit around and stew about things for an entire offseason. It sounds like he won't. A source told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon that Hunter's timeframe is about two weeks.
Several reports, including this one on CBSSports.com, indicated that the Detroit Tigers are heavy pursuers, but other teams are interested, including the Texas Rangers.
He's 37 years old, but coming off a great season. He hit .313 with 16 homers and 92 RBIs for the Los Angeles Angels. Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove winner, played right field exclusively last year. He was a center fielder for most of his career, though he has played some left field (early in his career).
If Josh Hamilton doesn't return, the Rangers must find a way to make up that production. Hunter could provide that, judging by his 2012 season. But the dominoes required might make it a bit difficult, depending on how the club approaches the Jurickson Profar situation. Yes, Profar's ripple effects are pretty big. If he becomes an every day player in 2013 and Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler aren't traded, what does that do to the infield? Kinsler could move to a corner outfield spot with Profar at second base. But if Hunter's in the mix, what happens to Nelson Cruz or David Murphy? Perhaps Cruz could go on the market. His contract ($11 million) expires at the end of the 2013 season. He's another player the club must decide on and they could make that decision now via trade. Again, that's just a hypothetical. Maybe Kinsler could even move to first. Again, not sure that's a direction the club wants to go and that would end up creating its own ripples.
But Hunter would give the club someone who is coming off a solid year offensively, has a track record of good defense and is considered an outstanding clubhouse veteran. He has some versatility in the outfield, too. While he's predominately a corner outfielder, he played 98 games at center field in 2010. He could play there some -- again, wouldn't do it regularly, but he could do it some -- if needed. One thing he doesn't do is give them a left-handed bat, something they need.
Still, I'm interested. And as this front office has shown, just because there might not be an obvious spot at this moment doesn't mean they won't try to make a deal happen. Let's not forget that it wasn't clear at all how Mike Napoli was going to fit on this team when he was acquired in 2011 as essentially a platoon player at first base and a third catcher. Things worked out and he found his role. I know Hunter's age will scare some folks away, but under the right deal (maybe one year and a club option with a hefty buyout), he can help this team.