Last Thursday, Jason Evans here at Halo Hangout explored the question of whether or not the Angels should resign Torii Hunter. Despite coming off possibly his best year in the big leagues, Hunter is 37 and will turn 38 on July 18th next year. Noting Hunter’s increased strikeout percentage and abnormally high BaBIP, Evans cautioned that Hunter is “close to reaching the end of the line” and that the Angels shouldn’t sign Hunter to anything longer than a one-year deal.
That being said, the Angels GM Jerry Dipoto has indicated that he does want to re-sign Hunter. In his words, he has a “tremendous interest” in re-signing the aging outfielder. So what can we expect from Hunter in 2013?
Last year, Hunter put up an OPS+ of 132, the best of his career. Here are the players 36 years-old or older in the last five years who have put up an OPS+ of 136 or greater with 500 or more plate appearances.
2007: Jim Thome: 150
2008: Chipper Jones: 176
2008: Manny Ramirez: 166
2008: Brian Giles: 138
2009: Raul Ibanez: 132
2012: Torii Hunter: 132
Not that many. Making Hunter’s success in 2012 all that more surprising. As you can immediately tell, though, Hunter is a bit of an oddball in this group. He’s the only right-handed hitter other than Manny Ramirez. And with all due respect to Torii Hunter, he is no Manny Ramirez. Also, while the OPS+ of 132 was Hunter’s career high, the rest of the group had numerous seasons putting up a better OPS+.
All of them except for Raul Ibanez. And this is where things get weird.
Ibanez’s highest OPS+ in a single season is also 132. Ibanez also did that during his age 37 season, similar to Torii Hunter. But the similarities don’t end there.
Ibanez’s career slugging percentage is .477 while Hunter’s is .466. Ibanez’s career batting average is .278. Hunter’s is .277. Ibanez’s career OBP is .340. Torii Hunter’s is .335. Ibanez’s career ISO is .192 while Hunter’s is .190. Ibanez’s career OPS+ is 112, Hunter’s is 111.
It should be noted that Ibanez is three year’s older than Hunter, but at this point in their careers, we shouldn’t expect forthcoming seasons to cause much fluctuation in the above mentioned percentages. Thus looking for a Hunter comparison in recent history, Ibanez is certainly an adequate selection.
So how has Ibanez done since age 37? Here’s his OPS+ and plate appearances in his subsequent seasons:
2010: 111 (PAs: 636)
2011: 91 (PAs: 575)
2012: 104 (PAs: 425)
Taking Hunter’s career OPS+ and Ibanez’s 2010 season in mind, here is the list of players 38 or older in the last 5 years who put up an OPS+ of 111 or greater with 500 or more plate appearances:
2007 – Frank Thomas: 125
2007 – Gary Sheffield: 119
2007 – Jeff Kent: 123
2007 – Ken Griffey: 119
2008 – Jason Giambi: 128
2008 – Brian Giles: 138
2008 – Jim Thome: 124
2009 – Raul Ibanez: 132
2009 – Chipper Jones: 117
2011 – Chipper Jones: 122
2012 – Derek Jeter: 128
Once again, all due respect to Hunter, but he doesn’t hold a candle to most of these players offensively with the exception of Ibanez. The only other hitter Hunter nears in this group is Brian Giles but it’s a fringe comparison in regards to OPS+ so we’ll throw it out.
Expanding the scope to a minimum of 400 plate appearances, and a number of other players appear including better comparisons such as Jim Edmonds, Scott Hatteberg and Matt Stairs. Here’s their OPS+ at age 37:
Of these three, none of them had more than 300 plate appearances past age 38. Edmonds was traded to the Padres following his age 37 season and was released after 90 at-bats. Scott Hatteberg was released by the Reds during his following season after signing a contract for $1.8 million in the off-season. Matt Stairs signed a $1.35 million dollar extension with the Royals after his age-37 season and proceeded to put up an OPS+ of 92. While Raul Ibanez was still locked into a contract through 2011 with the Phillies during his age 37 season. This year he signed a one-year deal with the Yankees for 1.1 million dollars.
Looking at the last five years, it appears Hunter can still be productive offensively in 2013 but it sure is a risk. Widen the scope even more and over 31 players, ages 37 or older, have put up an OPS+ of 100 (league average) or greater in the last five years with 400 or more plate appearances. Which is MORE players than those with the same perimeters who have put up an OPS+ of 100 or less in that five year span. Unfortunately for Hunter fans, only five are right-handed hitters, though.
As it stands, re-signing Torii Hunter is a risky proposition for the Angels. One that almost seems not worth it. Then again, if Hunter falters greatly, the Angels currently have a log-jam of outfielders they can turn to pending what the team decides to do this off-season with the likes of Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, and even Vernon Wells.
What we should expect to see from Jerry Dipoto is an offer to Hunter that shouldn’t be much more than a one-year deal between the 1 and 2 million dollar range. Anything else is betting against recent history and unnecessary risk for a team with a bloated payroll and a plethora of outfielders.