I woke up this morning having to recall exactly what happened last night. Did the Twins really make their first splash of the free agency period? Was it really on a 39-year-old outfielder? Is Torii Hunter really coming back to Minneapolis to patrol the outfield grass at Target Field? All of those answers still seem to be fulfilled with a resounding yes this morning.
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Apparently are operating under the premise that Torii Hunter will play right field for them. Under the overhang of the seat, Hunter will lay claim to the Target Field grass. Oswaldo Arcia will supposedly shift over to left field, and well, the reality is that the same outfield problems will likely still exist.
The Twins had issues in left field last season. With an already underachieving pitching staff, playing Josh Willingham, Chris Parmelee, and Eduardo Nunez in left field wasn’t going to help anyone. Arcia has a rocket attached to his shoulder, but his defensive prowess, and his ability to cover ground, isn’t anything for opposing teams to be afraid of.
Should Torii prove to be a defensive liability, that’s not a problem right? After all, it’s the American League and the Twins have the luxury of the designated hitter. If you recall, Kennys Vargas came up late in the season and was one of the Twins bright spots in 2014.
Of course, like many rookies, Vargas faded and struggled somewhat down the stretch, but that doesn’t negate the promise he displayed. Finishing the 2014 season with a .274/.316/.456 slash line while clubbing nine home runs and 38 runs batted in across just 53 games isn’t anything I’d be looking to remove from the lineup. Plus, with Josmil Pinto and Joe Mauer looking for designated hitter at bats, is there really enough to split between four players?
The narrative has been that Torii Hunter will bring the Twins so much more than what he can provide between the foul lines however. He is going to be a great mentor to young players, and be a leader in the clubhouse. Unfortunately, this narrative has never been sold by the Twins and is one that we have all sold ourselves on.
Many of the players that could use Torii Hunter’s veteran leadership won’t be on the 25 man roster until the summer at the earliest. Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, and Miguel Sano will have to soak up everything in a very short time period down in Fort Myers. On top of that, with the Twins poised for another tough season, and Hunter on a one year deal, he could be a trade chip down the stretch.
Despite the sentiments that may seem apparent here, I still tie many great Twins memories to the play of Torii Hunter. Considering the current state of the ballclub however, Minnesota just paid $10.5 million to allow a player the storybook ending. Had the jersey shown a different name on the back, this deal likely doesn’t take place. Not because Torii Hunter the hitter can’t help the Twins, but because in the grand scheme of the direction the club should be going in doesn’t fit at all with the signing that took place.
We must now enjoy the tradeoff of a farewell to a Twins great instead of another option that could have accelerated the rebuilding process.