What Is Torii Hunter’s Value To The Twins?
Going into the offseason, the Minnesota Twins knew they had two key deficiencies that needed to be addressed. First and foremost was at least one addition to the starting rotation. The Twins filled the first need by bringing in Ervin Santana. The second issue was defensive help in the outfield, and to fix that hole, they brought in Torii Hunter.
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The case for bringing Torii Hunter back to the Twins is built on a couple of principles. Tt would appear however, that none of those principles apply to the defensive deficiency. Hunter is an above average bat to add into the Twins lineup. After finishing amongst the top third of major league teams in runs scored a year ago, the Twins now add a bat that slashed .286/.319/.446 with 17 home runs and 83 runs batted in to the middle of their lineup. In Hunter, they also get someone they believe can be a mentor to the youth in the organization, specifically Byron Buxton. While this skill is immeasurable, it also would be something Hunter is not necessarily known for, and will require a process of adaptation for him. Arguably the least important, but still viable, reason for Hunter being back is the draw that he brings from the state of Minnesota. There’s no denying Torii Hunter is a favorite of Twins Territory.
Now, when looking at the deficiency the Twins were trying to fill, Torii Hunter doesn’t immediately jump out. First of all, the Twins appeared to be in need of a left fielder. Instead, they brought in Hunter, a right fielder, and shifted Oswaldo Arcia to the other corner outfield spot. On defense, Torii brings a -18 defensive runs saved as well as a -18.3 ultimate zone rating. While those numbers may not mean much to those not interested in advanced statistics, they are reflective of an aging fielder that struggles to track balls to the outfield at even a mediocre level.
To further complicate things, adding in the large outfield that Target Field possesses, as well as pitchers with fly ball and contact tendencies, the Twins could conceivably experience a heightened struggle in the field.
Despite the starting rotation looking drastically improved to start the 2015 season, there is going to be a period in which the Twins will have to work through what they have. By either expecting more effective outings from the mound, or a surprising growth in ability from the corner outfielders, the Twins are tying their success to unproven ground.
There is no doubt that Torii Hunter is still a professional level major league ballplayer. He will be out to prove his mentorship is a valuable asset, and that his bat will continue to play. However, after signing a contract paying him over $10 million, Torii Hunter will be looking at an uphill battle to prove he offers more to the Twins than someone like Colby Rasmus may have.
At the end of the day, the Twins got a hitter to fill a defensive gray area, that they have to hope will be more than an expensive journey into nostalgia.
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