Monday, May 30, 2011

Power Rankings Comments Explained: The Torii Hunter Problem

Torii Hunter: .240/.322/.375. He has a below-average bat for right field, with average defense. And he's still owed about $30 million through next season.

Seeing as how the Angels are the same team who knowingly, inexplicably took on the Vernon Wells albatross and the obligation to pay him $81 million over the next four years -- and actually gave value for the privilege -- it's easy to forget that they've committed $36 million for 2011 and 2012 to a remarkably similar albatross. Right-handed rather than switch hitting, but: some power, below-average on-base skills, declining speed, no longer possessing the range to play center.

In the offseason of 2007-2008, Torii Hunter was already 32 years old, and the Angels handed him a five-year, $90 million contract. As a Twins fan, it was a bit hard to see him go -- not as hard as you'd think, he could be kind of hypocritical and back-stabbing in the media, but hard, nonetheless -- but it was impossible to regret losing him when another team was willing to pay him that much money. Torii had been a good player -- sometimes very good, even -- but just wasn't nearly the kind of special player who was likely to justify being among the fifteen or so highest-paid players in the game at ages like 35 and 36. He's a nice player to have, but if you want to give him superstar money through his decline years, I hope you two will be very happy together. 

Hunter has had some good years for the Angels, but it's hard to argue he's ever really lived up to the contract. At his best, in 2009, he hit an impressive .299/.366/.506 (130 wRC+) with 22 homers, 18 steals, and decent defense in centerfield; if injuries hadn't robbed him of about 40 games, he could easily have been a five or six-win player. 

His bat has been good, though not as good, in 2008 and 2010. But the problem is that the value of that bat has gone down, as his ability to play defense, and ultimately the position he played, has changed. It's convenient for the Angels that they have a speed demon like Peter Bourjos, the only sort of guy who could wrest center field away from a multiple Gold-Glove winner without damaging the latter's pride. The fact is, though, that Hunter just couldn't do it anymore. He's been limited to right field, and he's not great out there, either. A player who can hit like Hunter did in 2008-10 and play a passable center field is a moderate star, but as a decent right fielder, he's roughly average. And you could argue this is just bad luck because free agent salaries haven't gone up as much as they might have expected, but regardless, he's still getting paid like a superstar. 

Angels fans were awfully disappointed last offseason, when the team failed to make any significant moves. With two mediocre corner outfielders sucking up over $40 million for 2012, though, I wouldn't expect next year's offseason to be a whole lot more exciting. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You've woken him. Torii's performance today against the Royals was pretty impressive. There's still an all-star caliber player in there somewhere.