Mariners in hunt for Torii Hunter

 Tony Paul of The Detroit News is reporting that former Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter relayed to Mark Whicker of the Los Angeles News Group that he has whittled down his list of potential teams to the Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, and Seattle Mariners.

Other teams including the Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Toronto Blue Jays had been previously mentioned as possible suitors for the 39-year-old outfielder.

The Mariners, who have been aggressively searching for right-handed power bats during this offseason, have been connected with numerous players including Russell Martin and Victor Martinez before their signing and Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Nelson Cruz, Matt Kemp, and Yoenis Cespedes.

The addition of the 18-year veteran, who posted a respectable 111 OPS+ (.286/.319/.446) in 2014, would provide a reliable right-handed bat at manager Lloyd McClendon’s disposal. Last year, 88% of his 586 plate appearances were at the 2nd and 5th spots in the batting order while he held down right field and was used sparingly as a designated hitter. It’s reasonable to expect that he would be used similarly by the Mariners.

Breaking into the majors with Minnesota in 1997, the nine-time Gold Glove centerfielder with the Twins and Angels before moving to Detroit in 2013. The veteran outfielder, who will turn 40 next July, has seen his fielding prowess diminish greatly over the last two years. After registering +15 Defensive Runs Saved in 2012, he deteriorated to -10 and -18 in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Despite his declining numbers, the Pine Bluff, AZ native has been a durable performer averaging 142 games during the last three seasons and hasn’t landed on the disabled list since missing 32 games in 2009 with a groin strain.

Based on his durability and previous performance, getting a two year contract seems like a reasonable expectation for the former Tiger, who will turn 40 next July. Offers would likely be less than the two year/$21 million contract that the New York Mets gave to Michael Cuddyer this year. His 2014 wRC+ of 113 falls short of Cuddyer’s 151, who is also four years younger than the five-time all-star.

Ultimately, the team that Torii Hunter selects will be for reasons that he only knows at this time. He lives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth suburbs, so Texas may be attractive to a veteran at the end of his career. After starting with Minnesota, he may want to end his career where it all began. Opting for either Seattle or Baltimore would signal that he wants to play for a winner. Whatever team gets him, will be getting a veteran leader and reliable hitter who has been a consistent performer for nearly two decades.

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Luke Arkins

Luke is a native New Yorker, who grew up a Mets fan. After the US Navy moved him to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, he decided to make Seattle his home. In 2014, Luke joined the Prospect Insider team and is now a contributor at HERO Sports also. During baseball season, he can be often found observing the local team at Safeco Field. You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins

5 Comments

  1. Think Torii makes great sense in an OF rotation. That still leaves a bat available to fill the DH or DH/1B type of thing. Someons like Gattis perhaps?

  2. Yup. Hunter is still a good player, and would be a great fit. With the Tigers, they couldn’t give him ABs at DH to keep him fresh. The Ms can do that.

    With Jackson, Saunders, Ackley, and Hunter splitting playing time, we’d have a decent unit. Adding a guy like Allen Craig and /or Kyle Blanks (who can both play OF and 1B) would give McClendon good options.

    Other pluses: Hunter is universally praised as a great clubhouse guy and team leader, and he would know McClendon well. Plus, adding Hunter would give us options next year. Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes, and Dexter Fowler are among the players heading into free agency after this season. The Ms could bring in Hunter in the short term, then look to add a more long-term solution later.

  3. I think Cruz is already going to get 3 years at the most so don’t think Hunter affects him much. Give me Hunter on a one or two year deal and Cruz on a 3yr deal. We don’t lose any talent and don’t get into contracts that destroy flexibility for years down the road. From there I’d look to add a 2nd tier starter like McCarthy and call it a day. Of course you’d still look to add bit players and flyers but those three should address our holes and bridge the gap to next years free agent outfield class.

  4. Could we get Hunter for just one year, I love the idea if it is not multiple years. 2/24 million not so much. At some point isn’t he going to turn into a really old Raul Ibanez? Also, if Baltimore signs Hunter, wouldn’t the market collapse on Cruz (again)? Maybe he suddenly becomes available on a 2 or 3 year deal if baltimore is no longer in the mix?

  5. I’m all in for Hunter. I say let Oakland get Upton and find out how valuable he is in the AL, then decide as to whether or not go after him next year in free agency. I doubt Oakland goes hard after JUp.

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