The American League champion Detroit Tigers made a notable signing on Wednesday by inking veteran outfielder Torii Hunter
to a two-year deal worth a reported $26 million
. Hunter joins Detroit after spending the last five seasons as a member of the Los Angeles Angels, and the 37 year-old is expected to be installed as the club's everyday rightfielder.
Hunter is a four-time all-star and began his career with the Minnesota Twins before signing a five-year $90 million contract with the Angels in November of 2007. Since first seeing significant playing time with Minnesota back in 1999, he has tallied ten 20-homer seasons, and between 2001 and 2009 he won nine consecutive Gold Glove Awards, all for his work as a centerfielder. Hunter made a more permanent shift to right field in 2011.
At the plate, Hunter has been an effective run producer throughout most of his career and holds a .277/.335/.466 (average/on-base/slugging) triple-slash line in 7887 lifetime plate appearances. In 2012, he finished the year with a career-best .313 batting average (in 140 games), though that was likely a direct result of an uncharacteristic .389 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) mark (his career BABIP is .307). His success in 2012 came after a less impressive 2011 campaign in which he hit just .262, his lowest mark since 2003. But despite some bumps in the road, Hunter's strong 2012 numbers and general career consistency as a hitter led directly to his deal with the Tigers, who are fresh off of being swept in the World Series.
Consistency is something that the 2012 Detroit Tigers badly needed at their corner outfield spots, particularly late in the season and in the playoffs when they were rotating several players in both left and right field. Young 21 year-old outfielder Avisail Garcia
showed some potential as a starting rightfielder (particularly in the ALCS), but having a proven veteran like Hunter on the roster will likely only help Garcia's ongoing development as a big leaguer.
In adding Hunter, the Tigers also now have the luxury of seeking just one starting corner outfielder (in left field) from their supply of internal options like Garcia, Quintin Berry
, Andy Dirks
, and Brennan Boesch
, though it's possible that the Tigers continue their off-season moves by upgrading there as well.
As for Hunter's overall (and fantasy baseball) value, one expects that moving into a strong Detroit Tigers lineup (likely hitting second) can only help his 2013 batting numbers. While it's unlikely that Hunter will tally a .389 BABIP and a .313 batting average again, batting in front of perennial sluggers Miguel Cabrera
and Prince Fielder
should not only allow him to see more hittable pitches, but it should also allow him to score a lot of runs this year. A Tigers lineup of centerfielder Austin Jackson
, Hunter, Cabrera, Fielder, and healthy Victor Martinez
should prove quite formidable in 2013, assuming Torii and his teammates can avoid injuries.