This offseason, the Minnesota Twins decided to give out a one-year, $10.5 million deal to allow Torii Hunter to come back to the club. While the nostalgia is flowing for many around Twins Territory, the move was met by hesitation from many. Few were more critical of the move than myself, but now that the dust has settled, where do things stand?
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Torii Hunter was brought back to the Twins under the narrative that he could be a mentor to the up and coming youth of the organization, while filling in playing right field. The criticisms relied around just how bad the outfield defense may be in 2014. For a team with an expansive amount of grass to cover, and two liabilities on the corners, things could get worse behind the pitching staff. As we’ve done more digging however, things have become more muted.
There is still next to nobody that will tell you Torii Hunter is a good outfielder in his present state. However, he also isn’t the trainwreck as was billed on the day of the signing. Earlier this week we looked at Hunter during his prime with the Twins. In that situation, he actually wasn’t an ideal outfielder either. Lacking range and failing to get to a lot of fly balls, Hunter was still racking up Gold Gloves on a nearly yearly basis. Where his defense may have declined even further, it’s fair that his veteran savvy should very well save him in the long run.
On the flip side, there’s Hunter’s offense. In 2014, the Twins got key contributions in the lineup from more than a few unexpected sources. Danny Santana and Kurt Suzuki hit significantly better than they should have for the Twins. If everything remained the same, it would be fair to argue that expecting another top ten offensive performance in 2015 would be a longshot. Torii Hunter can still hit though, and he does so well.
Target Field is a different beast than Comerica Park. Hunter may watch as some of the home run numbers take a dip, but as a sixth hitter in the lineup, the Twins could have done much worse. He should be an asset at the plate, and pairing that with his mentorship capabilities, the Twins get a net positive out of the situation.
The contract is probably a bit of a home-town hat tip, later deals suggest the Twins overpaid to a certain extent, but Hunter will provide value to Minnesota. While it’s still not the first move the Twins should have been looking to make in the offseason, it’s far from the worst one available.
At the end of the day, the Twins could have done worse. Their cross street brother traded for Kevin Garnett today…
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