Offseason Hot Stove: Torii Hunter? Maybe?

Tonight, or, this morning, technically, I was nearing the end of my shift at the casino -- sorting six decks of playing cards, because that's what dealers have to do before they can go home -- when my manger approached me at the table I was at to talk some Rangers baseball. (He's a fellow Californian Rangers fan.)

"How do you think our boys are gonna do next year?" he asked.

Oh, you know, I'm confident... I think we're going to be really good again, actually.

"Who do you think JD is going to go after this offseason?" he continued.

Honestly, I have no clue. But I do think we're one really good starter away from being legit favorites in the West.

"Yeah, I don't know, man. I feel like ever since Nolan left the whole operation has gone to shit. I think it's going to be a while before we're a playoff contender. The new manager will help, but not until we get a new GM will we..." he concluded, before wandering off into some thought about how Matt Harrison would make a good closer. 

Okay, I'm done. That is all. 

* * * * * *

Ken Robothal tweets that a collection of teams have expressed "preliminary" interest in free agent outfielder Torii Hunter, including Texas, Seattle, Kansas City, Minnesnowta, the Cubs, Giants and a few others. As Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors opines -- which I tend to agree with -- "Given his age, I'd think Hunter's priority would be signing with a team he expects to contend in 2015[.]"

Torii Hunter is an old man by baseball standards (he'll be in his age-40 season in 2015), but given the interest Texas has shown in the past -- both before he signed with Anaheim, and before he went to Detroit -- this could finally be the time he makes it to Arlington and his home state of Texas. 

Last season, Torii was excessively average according to FanGraphs WAR, +0.3, but it was more due to his -24.7 UZR than anything else; he still hit a respectable .286/.319/.446 (113 wRC+) while generating 52 extra-base hits (17 HRs, 33 2Bs, 2 3Bs). Assuming Shin-Soo Choo is shifted to right field and Leonys Martin remains as Texas's center fielder, Hunter's role would be as the designated hitter. That's the only way his addition would make any sense. 

Also, there's the issue of money. As I've mentioned ad nauseam, the Rangers are strapped for cash this offseason -- about $20 million to spend -- so how far would they be willing to commit for a player whose only tool they really value is his bat? On the one hand, Hunter is fresh off a two-year, $26 million contract from the Tigers; on the other, he's a 40 year-old and let's face it: he's nowhere close to what he once was, which is expected for players long in the teeth.

You're not getting middle-of-the-order, Gold Glove-caliber defense Torii Hunter. You're getting contact-hitter Torii Hunter, who, yeah, will provide some pop here and there, but who won't steal you any bases and won't give you anything more than a reputation in the outfield. 

It's tough. 

My guess is he'll be living off of one-year contracts until he finally decides to call it quits. But for 2015, which is the only year that really matters in this context, it's probably going to take around $8 million to ascertain his services. If, as I imagine, his focus is to win a World Series, the Rangers can sell him on that idea, but I doubt Jon Daniels is cunning enough sign him for closer to $5-$6 million, which is what I think he's truly worth at this stage of his career. 

Could Texas sign him on the cheap? I doubt it. However, let's say they sign him for $6 million; after that, they'd still have about $14 million to play with, in theory, and that's right around the spot Texas would like to be in to afford Colby Lewis and a #3 starter on the trade market. That would be ideal.

As you can see from the various posts recently, the Rangers front office can go a bunch of different directions to virtually end up in the same place. If nothing else, Torii Hunter would secure an everyday spot in the batting order and be able to offer some veteran know-how to some of the young bucks already on the roster.