Apparently, Torii Hunter has become a hot commodity on the open market. You'll have to forgive me if I'm not entirely sold on the notion that he should be.
That notion was floated recently by Jon Heyman of CBS, who wrote that Hunter is being considered one of the most sought-after free agents on the market:
Hunter is expected to seek a salary similar to the one received by Carlos Beltran, who got a $26-million, two-year deal last winter, and Derek Jeter, who got a bit more than that per year coming off a .270 season.
Hunter's big finish, where he even outplayed Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the final few weeks, doesn't hurt, either. Hunter batted .313 overall with 16 home runs and 92 RBIs, but he hit .350 from Aug. 1 on. Hunter is also viewed as a great team leader.
"He's very popular already,'' said someone familiar with the situation.
I'm sorry, but a healthy Beltran is far more valuable than Hunter. In the past five seasons in which has Beltran has played 140 or more games, his least amount of production came last year, when he hit .300 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI.
That's about the average year for Hunter. He's only hit over 100 RBI twice and over 30 home runs once. Contrast that to Beltran, who has hit over 100 RBI eight times in his career and more than 30 home runs four times.
Oh, and Hunter is two years older at 37. Are you really going to pay a 37-year-old $13 million?
David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News had two comparisons for Hunter that I'm much more comfortable with:
The more accurate comparison for Hunter would be somebody like Magglio Ordonez, who signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the White Sox after his 36-year-old season (same age as Hunter this year), when he hit .303/.378/.474 with 12 home runs, missing time due to injury. The season before, he logged 518 plate appearances and hit .310/.376/.428.
Even better might be Johnny Damon after his 35-year-old season in 2009, when he hit .282/.365/.489 with 24 home runs in 626 plate appearances before signing a one-year, $8 million deal with the Tigers. Fact is, the last corner outfielders to get multi-year deals who were as old as Hunter were Manny Ramirez and Raul Ibanez in the pre-2009 offseason.
What is Torii Hunter worth on the free-agent market?
Hunter may be a great leader that doesn't battle with injuries like Beltran, but he shouldn't be paid like him. Well, I wouldn't pay him Beltran money at least, and I think any general manager that would is crazy.
I get it—after Josh Hamilton and Jered Weaver, the market is full of good players but there aren't many great ones left to be had. Generally, that means average players will end up earning contracts they don't quite deserve since teams needing to fill out the roster will often be willing to bid on players they might otherwise ignore once the price goes to high.
In other words, Hunter has some leverage this winter, and it looks like it might pay off for him.
He's not a bad guy to have around. But for what he could cost, I would stay away.
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