Torii Hunter was a man in demand on the free agent market, a testament to the need throughout MLB for a reliable right-handed bat. In recent days, the Orioles, Rangers, Mariners, Royals and Twins had all expressed interest in the outfielder.
Rather than join a contender with what will likely be the last contract of his 17-year MLB career, the 39-year-old is going back to where it all began for him. As reported by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Hunter is returning to the Twins, with whom he played during his first 11 seasons.
Returning to Minnesota takes Hunter on a nice, circular path that will compel many to write about what a great story that is. But as appealing as that narrative might be, it’s likely that Hunter signed with the Twins for more practical reasons.
Source: Hunter deal with #Twins is one year, $10.5M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 3, 2014
Rosenthal followed up with a tweet reporting that the Twins’ contract exceeded what the Rangers offered. While that $10.5 million salary is a pay cut from the $14 million Hunter earned with the Tigers last season, it was obviously the best deal among the offers he received.
Last season, Hunter hit .286 with a .765 OPS, 33 doubles, 17 home runs and 83 RBI in 586 plate appearances for Detroit. That batting average and OPS would have ranked third among Twins everyday players in 2014, while his home run total would have been second.
Yet without the same glaring need for a right-handed bat that Hunter’s other suitors had, his diminished skills as an outfielder (he was credited with -18 Defensive Runs Saved last season, worst among MLB right fielders) and a likely last-place finish in the AL Central, this is a bit of a curious move for the Twins. Maybe the “you can go home again” narrative appealed just that much to them.