Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hunter Headed Back to Minnesota

Hunter's not the player he used to be, but that's okay (HuffingtonPost)
Torii Hunter, a Minnesota Twin from 1997 through 2007, is returning to the team that made him a first round draft pick in 1993.

Hunter has slowed considerably during the intervening time with the Angels and Tigers, going from a Gold Glove center fielder in 2008 to an everyday right fielder and seeing more time at DH. Now 39, he's lost most of the speed that once made him a perennial Gold Glover and 20 stolen base threat.

His hitting skills have remained largely intact, however, though he doesn't walk as much as he used to and the home runs come less frequently. Like most players at this stage in their careers, Hunter's a hitter in decline, as all three of his slash stats dropped in each of the last two seasons. He projects to be a league average hitter at best next year (playing half his games at Target Field won't help), and for $10.5 million that's not so bad, especially given the dearth of available impact bats. Seeing as though he was barely above replacement level last year, however, he seems unlikely to produce the 1.5 WAR needed to earn his paycheck.

That said, the Twins aren't going to be contenders in 2015, so who really cares if they overpay Hunter by a few million bucks? Their main motive in signing a 39 year-old right fielder/DH wasn't to make their team better--if he does that's merely a bonus.

No, Minneosta made Hunter a Twin again because 2015 will be his 19th season, and very possibly his last. He was very popular in Minnesota and has a lot of sentimental value to the team. Even though he's no longer a star, he still provides some name value and a familiar face for a rebuilding franchise that doesn't have many besides Joe Mauer.

And if he retires after next year, at least he will retire as a Minnesota Twin,

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