By now you’re aware that the Minnesota Twins sent a Brinks truck loaded with cash over to Torii Hunter‘s home this offseason. Ok, so maybe that’s not the real story, but they did pay the fan-favorite $10.5 million on a one year contract. On paper, this deal makes little sense considering Hunter’s declining defensive ability, but what’s beyond the numbers may explain more.
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I will be the first to stand by the defensive criticism of Torii Hunter, he’s far from an average major league outfielder at this point in his career. A few weeks back, I took a look as to exactly why the money and signing didn’t make sense. Now however, the decision has been made, so how do we make the best of it?
With the addition of Hunter into the Twins outfield, Minnesota decided to shift Oswaldo Arcia over to left field, with Torii playing in right. Having watched Arcia play outfield, you should be well aware that defensive ability in right was not his forte either. Having suffered through Josh Willingham in left field, we have to wonder what reason Arcia is any different. That being said, the change of scenery could be a good move for both players, and the answers aren’t all that difficult.
As our friends over at Twinkie Town explained this morning, Arcia struggled with Target Field’s right field dimensions as a whole. The overhang, high wall, and foul territory did no favors to a player who already was a defensive project. In moving over to left field, Arcia now is dealt a much better draw. The distractions are minute, and the lone obstacle is covering the expanse that is a big outfield in Minneapolis.
Enter Torii Hunter.
Yes, Hunter’s defense has declined significantly in recent years. Bloopers, lines, and pop flies fall in at times they shouldn’t, routes to the ball aren’t as crisp, and speed isn’t the asset it once was. All that being said, Torii Hunter is still a veteran who has played enough baseball to know some of the tricks of the trade. Entering Target Field, an adaptation process will need to take place as Hunter settles in under the overhang. While not the centerfield wall, Hunter will need to learn how to play bounces off the tall right field wall, and understand exactly where he can leap too.
Therein lies the sensibility of the transition.
Minnesota seemed intent on bringing back Hunter, he was someone they were tied to from the get go. Although the outfield added a player that statistically is deemed a defensive liability, the positioning of him could increase the ability as a whole. Torii Hunter should and will be able to adapt to a difficult outfield much quicker than a young player whose defense is not an asset. Arcia can settle into a lower risk position in left field and more easily track balls to the outfield.
Unfortunately, the Twins will lose the arm strength Arcia displayed from right field. With throws to second and third being less demanding from left, Arcia will display his cannon most on runners trying to score. Although the asset may not be utilized as frequently, the Twins could conceivably see a defensive net gain through the repurposing of their players.
There is no doubt that Torii Hunter is not the name that comes to mind when looking for defensive help in the outfield during an offseason. Arcia is also not someone you’d necessarily want to pair with a below average corner outfield partner. Having now seen it play out however, the logistics of it could work a lot better than the numbers would suggest.
You can bet that Twins pitchers will be hoping so.