November 13, 2012
Tuesday, November 13
Giants general manager Brian Sabean kicked off his mission to retain the free-agent contributors to his team’s World Series championship run by inking Jeremy Affeldt to a three-year deal worth about $18 million. Apart from that and a slew of minor-league signings, two of which sent former Pirates righty Daniel McCutchen to the Orioles and ex-Indians outfielder Aaron Cunningham to the Rangers, there wasn’t much to write home about on Monday. Fortunately, today’s first rumor suggests that the action could resume in short order:
Tigers leading the race for Torii Hunter
Knobler mentioned the Rangers and Tigers as possible fits for the veteran right fielder in his morning blog post, and multiple reports later in the day—including the afore-linked tweet from ESPN’s Jim Bowden—zeroed-in on Detroit. As Knobler wrote, the fit makes plenty of sense for both sides, giving Hunter a chance to play for another contender—in this case, the defending American League champions—and offering the Tigers a significant upgrade over Quintin Berry, whose feckless bat was a liability in the two-hole of manager Jim Leyland’s lineup throughout the World Series.
The 37-year-old Hunter is coming off of a five-year, $90 million contract consummated with the Halos around Thanksgiving of 2007, and unlike many high-priced free agents, he actually lived up to the $18 million average annual value by delivering 16.1 WARP over the life of the deal. One of the most durable veterans on the free-agent market, Hunter made only one trip to the disabled list in his five years in Anaheim—missing 32 games with a strained groin in 2009—and his clean medical history should allay some of the concerns about his age.
On the other hand, despite logging a .313/.365/.451 triple-slash line over 584 plate appearances last season, Hunter did show some signs of imminent decline. The right-handed hitter’s career-best batting average was largely a product of his .389 BABIP, the highest mark in the junior circuit in 2012 and 53 points better than Hunter’s previous career high of .336, which he set way back in 2000. That bloated BABIP masked a worrisome erosion of Hunter’s plate-discipline skills, which contributed to his posting a 6.5 percent walk rate (his lowest since 2007) and 22.6 percent strikeout clip (his highest in any full major-league season).
One source of that decline becomes evident from a year-by-year glance at Hunter’s hitter profile: