What will Torii Hunter bring to the Twins? Not much

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The Twins made it official this morning when they announced that former star Torii Hunter has been signed a one-year contract.

Hunter, who in baseball years is older than dirt, comes back to the team for primarily emotional reasons and also because the Twins can’t schedule 82 concerts with Kenny Chesney at Target Field.

The great Aaron Gleeman writes at MinnPost:

Make no mistake, the Twins are paying for nostalgia here. Even if Hunter exactly duplicates his 2014 performance — which is always unlikely at age 39 — he’d be average offensively for a corner outfielder and well below average defensively. Any further decline on either side of the ball would make him a liability and as with most 39-year-olds there isn’t a whole lot of upside to balance out the potential for a major dropoff.

The good news is that it’s a straight up one-year deal, which makes it easier to cut bait on Hunter if necessary and doesn’t lock the Twins into anything beyond 2015.

And while $10.5 million is way too much money to spend, it’s not as if the Twins were going to spend money elsewhere anyway. In each of the past two seasons they’ve left massive amounts of payroll unspent and there’s zero indication they planned to make a real effort to sign any front-line free agents this offseason.

So what will Hunter do?

We dusted off the Brock5 spreadsheet, the Bill James-inspired calculations for predicting a player’s performance, based on his ability to stay in the lineup either because of no injuries or because he performs well enough to keep the rookies at bay.

Here’s the result. Scroll write down to “2015” and you’ll see why it’s just a one-year deal.

Ted Schwerzler, who writes at Puckett’s Pond, says the notion that Hunter brings “leadership” to the team has some flaws, too.

Many of the players that could use Torii Hunter’s veteran leadership won’t be on the 25 man roster until the summer at the earliest.

Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, and Miguel Sano will have to soak up everything in a very short time period down in Fort Myers. On top of that, with the Twins poised for another tough season, and Hunter on a one year deal, he could be a trade chip down the stretch.

It’s pricey at $10.5 million, but it’s not our money and it’s a small price to pay in the long run for being able to pass the time during an early-arriving winter by talking a little baseball.

  • Gary F

    We could have gotten a pitcher for that kind of money.

    Torii had more RBI’s last year (83) that anyone on the Twins, Plouffe (80). So even if his production goes down 15%, that’s 70, equal to our second best, Dozier(71), and do even talk to me about how many our first baseman got.

    Except for Suzuki and our first baseman, we don’t have much veteran leadership.

    We could have gotten a pitcher for that kind of money.

    • RBIs are primarily a reflection on people who bat before someone in a lineup, though. I think Hunter batted behind Kinsler, Cabrera and J.D. Martinez. I think I’d planned for a substantially bigger drop in RBI in ’15,

      The Twins might still get someone like Justin Masterson in free agency. The suckers

    • Dave

      I think there’s a flaw in your logic. In order to get 83 RBI, there have to be runners on base. I would bet any money that the Tigers had more runners in 2014 than the Twins, and that Hunter had more opportunities for RBI over in Detroit. Can’t find the stat for runners though.

      I did find something called “aeRatio” or ratio of actual RBI to expected RBI. They only have stats as recent as 2013 though. Torii’s ratio that year was 1.092, or slightly better than average I guess.

      Either way, the signing of Hunter, to me, just reeks of a rudderless franchise. It’s a stab in the dark. I wonder how much input Molitor had in the decision.

      • Dave

        I should add that I don’t think picking up Hunter is necessarily a bad idea IF it’s part of a broader team-building strategy. I don’t see any evidence for that though.

        Whether he’s productive is one thing, but he does appear to be a pretty durable player. He’s averaged 569 PA since 1999. That’s something I guess. He’s not frail like Mauer.

        I agree with Gary that they paid way too much.

        • Gary F

          Not saying we paid too much. Torii would have gotten that kinda of money elsewhere. What I saying is that we are not the Yankees, we must spend our money wisely, and we need pitching first.

          Think the first baseman will swing at any first pitches this year? Think he will ever turn the hips and hit for power to right field?

          • Jerry

            Oh good, I thought for a moment that you and Dave agreed on something, and it made me confused and a little scared. It’s good that things are back to normal.

      • Remember when 2015 was going to be the year all the “kids” were ready and the franchise would compete? Funny how that player development stuff works out. (Says the fan whose team is in year 30 of its five-year rebuilding plan)

        • Dave

          Yep, I remember. My wife’s uncle told me on Easter Sunday 2013 that the Twins might not be good until 2015. Looks like he was being optimistic.

  • Robert Moffitt

    I would suggest we burn Target Field to the ground, but then where would Kenny Chesney play?

    • John O.

      Kenny would hold out for the Grand Opening of the House of Wilf.

  • RF Jim

    What will he bring to the Twins? A bunch of opinions about marriage equality that won’t help the Twins attract millennials, a trip to the DL, a blow-up about Dominicans,
    and someone to warm the bench come September.

  • Ben Chorn

    He would have had the 3rd most HR’s and the most RBI’s as a Twin if he played for them last season.

    My guess is this move is to get more people in the seats at Target Field. Kubel couldn’t do it, so maybe Hunter will. Attendance keeps falling now that Target Field has been around a while.

  • tboom

    This is either: 1) a cynical attempt to distract fans attention from ownership’s intentional failure to actually field a major league team or 2) the first step in a complex multifaceted plan to rebuild the hometown team into a legitimate contender.

    I suspect the former.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    The last time around, when Torii joined the Tigers, there was a quote that made the rounds about how Torii had expressed interest in “coming home” to end his career. I think this is what’s happening here. If he is lighting up the league I expect he might be traded to a contender in July, but there may also be an understanding that this will be the “last lap” and they will keep him here the whole season.

    Who knows, maybe he can get inside Aaron Hicks’s head and turn the kid around.