The Toronto Blue Jays continue to be one of most active teams on the hot stove market this winter, figuratively in on every single free agent available. With a new attachment for the team coming out nearly daily, it is without a surprise the Ken Rosenthal notes that Blue Jays are also in on the market for free agent outfielder Torii Hunter.
As Rosenthal notes, this isn’t the first time the Blue Jays have danced with Torii Hunter during free agency. Two years ago, Toronto pursued Hunter before he eventually landed with the Detroit Tigers. Now, the team appears to be looking at Hunter as a possible replacement in left field for Melky Cabrera, who is expected to depart via free agency.
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At 39-years-old, Torii Hunter is far from the player he was in his youth and it reflects a bit in his numbers. By shear WAR ratings, he was barely above replacement level in 2014, posting a 0.3 mark according to FanGraphs and a 0.4 by Baseball-Reference’s standards. However, that has been highly dragged down by defensive metrics that haven’t been kind to Hunter over the past few years, with the 9-time gold glove winner seeing steep declines in UZR/150 (-5.1 in 2013, -20.1 in 2014) and Defensive Runs Saved (-10 in 2013, -18 in 2014).
Offensively, Hunter seems to keep ticking along. averaging a slash-line of .295/.327/.456 over the last two seasons with nearly identical totals of 17 home runs in each 2013 and 2014, as well as 84 and 83 RBI respectively. Additionally, Hunter has been incredibly durable during his career as well, playing in 130+ games in eight of the last nine seasons.
Hunter’s previous deal called for two years at $26 million, with $14 million of that paid last season. The Blue Jays would likely be looking for a similar deal in terms of years, but I could see them preferring to keep it closer to $20 million overall, if that. A third year would not happen with Toronto, and I suspect that most clubs would be hesitant to go down that route with a 39-year-old with declining defensive mobility.
That said, Torii Hunter may be a feasible stop gap for the Blue Jays, adding yet another veteran to an aging line-up, especially with his power production still having upside. However the defense could be large concern for Toronto, and while Hunter could spend some time at DH, it would be a waste of available funds to dedicate there. Nori Aoki remains a cheaper option and his defensive capabilities are much more in line with what Toronto wants behind its pitching staff.
I can see a fit with Torii Hunter with the Toronto Blue Jays, but I still think there are better options available.