Yesterday, Torii Hunter signed a 1-year contract with the Minnesota Twins. Spending my whole life in Minnesota, I didn’t know what to think when I heard the news. Should I be happy that Torii is coming back home? Can he add value to the 2015 squad? What about the other outfielders on the team? I decided to take a look at some stats to help me decide how I felt about the signing.
According to Baseball Reference, 12 different Twins spent at least some time in the outfield over the course of the 2014 season. Danny Santana started 62 games in center field and 101 games overall. He batted .319 with a .353 OBP and was one of the biggest surprises in the American League. Oswaldo Arcia played 100 games in the outfield, batting .231 in his 2nd season with the club. He was also below the MLB average in OBP, posting a .300. I am optimistic that Arcia will continue to improve, and his 20 homer potential is promising.
So where does that put Hunter? Torii’s deal is for only 1 year, but it is for enough money (10.5 mil) that they are going to want him play every night. This might take away playing time from other outfielders like Jordan Schafer, who plays all three outfield positions and Aaron Hicks, who will likely be competing for a roster spot. Last, but certainly not least, we have Byron Buxton. Buxton might still be another year away from the majors after suffering multiple injuries last year, including a brutal collision with another teammate while trying to make a catch in the outfield. Torii’s experience and leadership would be another great addition to Byron’s young career and hopefully Hunter can be the leader in the clubhouse that the Twins seek.
Hunter played 11 years with the Twins from 1997-2007, where he posted a .271 batting average and .324 OBP. He also posted a .990 fielding percentage or higher almost every year that he was here, and he is still productive in the field as he nears the end of his career. Hunter’s numbers are the reason that I have given him the name Mr. Consistent when mentioning him to people who haven’t seen his career numbers. He has hit over 10 home runs the last 14 years and has posted 20+ dingers in 6 of the last 9. He averages 75 to 90 RBI on the regular and his batting average is always right around .300. The other reason I have given him the nickname is because of the number of games he plays. Over 140 games the past 5 years and at age 39, there is not a reason those patterns couldn’t continue. If I had to choose, I would say that Torii plays left field and helps this team as they are try to build for the future, a phrase that Minnesota Twins fans are ready to put to rest forever. He decided to potentially finish his career here instead of somewhere where he could contend right away and I think that is very Hunter-like.
Welcome home Torii, good luck as you rejoin the team that brought you so much joy early in your career. See you April 13th at Target Field, I will be the guy with the wrinkled jersey with your name on it and I couldn’t be more excited.
Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/24zy8m
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Jared “Minnesota Nice” Hines is a fantasy sports contributor at The Sports Script. Follow him on Twitter @Jared_Hines27!