It was a good relationship. Sure, it wasn’t the cleanest split and we might have left some of our CD’s at his place but there aren’t any hard feelings. The Angels are going with a younger, cheaper outfielder and Torii Hunter will grow older and richer with his new team. Hunter made it official Wednesday by signing a two year, $26 million deal with the Detroit Tigers.
Hunter spent five seasons in Anaheim after signing a $90 million deal in 2008 with the Angels. He was an ambassador for both the team and MLB, a prankster, a mentor and a fine baseball player. If you believe in the value given to his WAR (wins above replacement) by Fangraphs, Hunter even almost earned his mega-deal. Fangraphs had him worth $79.5 million over the five years. Hunter’s final year for the Angels was his best as a pro hitting .313/.365/.451 and playing good outfield defense. For all of that, the Angels didn’t extend Hunter the $13.5 million qualifying offer and only showed near minimal interest in bringing Hunter back by putting $5 million on the negotiating table.
Hunter’s departure leaves the Angels with Peter Bourjos reclaiming center, Mike Trout moving to left and Mark Trumbo in right with Vernon Wells sprinkled in for people to complain. Some fans are upset that Hunter was basically shown the door while others are rather indifferent. Either way, it’s going to be okay.
It’s hard to fault the Angels for not wanting to give nearly $30 million to a 37-year-old player coming off of a career year. Hunter probably didn’t develop new skills to suggest his career high .389 BABIP is sustainable so some regression can be expected. I’m not suggesting Hunter becomes a bad baseball player over the next two seasons but he’s not the 5.5 rWAR (Baseball-Reference wins above replacement) player we saw in 2012.
For comparisons sake, here are two other gentleman with career years at the ripe-ish age of 36.
Velarade missed time from 2000 to 2002 and then his career was over but he was also an infielder. It’s not the best comp but the numbers at the plate could be eerily similar to Hunter going forward. Cruz might be the better scenario for Hunter. Cruz was capable in the field and still valuable offensively after his big year-36 season. If Hunter replicates Cruz’s numbers, his 5.4 WAR would make him worth ~$27 million (assuming a win is worth $5MM). Detroit will get their money’s worth. If he follows Velarde’s track, Hunter would be worth ~$18.5 million.
It’s a risk the Angels didn’t want to pay. Of course, the Angels are risking Trumbo repeating his mind-numbing .227/.271/.359 second half from 2012. Trumbo still had a 2.3 WAR and at a fraction of the cost.
Losing Torii Hunter is going to be okay. Unless his years 37 and 38 are more Ted Williams than Jose Cruz or Randy Velarde. Then it looks pret-tah, pret-tah bad.