Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hunter Signs with Angels

I'm heartbroken.

Well, not really. To me good business sense dictated that Torii Hunter would be elsewhere in 2008. Hunter's age, decreasing fielding abilities, and general quality of hitting make any deal over two years a bad one. That the Twins offered three year is a testament to Hunter's popularity and their gratitude for all his service. Three years would mean Hunter would be the new stadium's first centerfielder.

While Hunter no longer plays an elite CF, he is adequate there and would figure to remain so for the five years the Angels gave him. And therefore his offensive numbers should be held in a CF context. Offensively, for his first seven seasons, Hunter's avg/obp/slg was .267/.321/.458. The slugging number is good for CF, the on-base percentage is bad. Those seven years were highlighted by a .289/.334/.524 in 2002, which, not so coincidentally as it turns out, was the first year his offensive numbers would help determine his salary for the following year. The Twins signed Hunter to a 4 year, $32 million contract, with an option for a fifth year.

Therefore the 2003-05 season would provide Hunter with all sorts of comforts that kind of money could bring, and it would also provide an apparent lack of urgency to learn to hit the breaking balls. Hunter's numbers fell to .262/.325/.460 during the 2003-05 period. With the contract ending after 2006, Hunter bounced back that season to .278/.336/.490, and the Twins picked up his $12 million option. Had the Twins decided not to pay Hunter, he would surely then have been a free agent, and his strong 2006 season would have provided a big payday.

As it was, 2007 was again a year for the free agent salary drive, and Hunter did not disappoint at .287/.334/.505. All told, Hunter's salary drive seasons (2002, 2006, 2007) yielded .285/.335/.506, and his non-salary drive seasons yielded .263/.318/.445.

Does anyone looking at these numbers really think the Twins should have ponied up $75 million for five years? Is this going to be worth $90 million over those five years for the Angels? Since the Angels already had Gary Matthews, Jr playing a fine CF, they need to look at Hunter's numbers as if they were acquiring a LF (regardless of the fact that Hunter will play CF). The average league LF hits .274/.345/.448. If the Angels are able to deal Matthews, then Hunter's offensive numbers should be compared to the average CF: .268/.332/.418/

Hunter therefore is worse in non-salary drive seasons than the average left field the Angels could have plucked for one year, $5 million. If Matthews is dealt, they paid $90 million for an average CF. Anyway you slice it, the Angels made horrendous move, at least until that salary-driven 2012 season gets here.

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