Detroit Tigers: Why Torii Hunter Will Be the X-Factor in 2013
Photo courtesy of ESPN.com
The Detroit Tigers may not have made the biggest splash in free agency this offseason, but acquiring Torii Hunter with a two-year, $28 million deal was the perfect piece for the Tigers' World Series puzzle.
Hunter had a career year with the Los Angeles Angels in 2012—his 15th major league season—batting .313 with a .365 on-base percentage, 16 home runs and 92 RBI.
But after reinvigorating his career at the age of 37, the Angels refused to extend Hunter's contract and allowed him to test the waters of free agency.
Hunter was only a free agent for about two weeks before beginning conversations with the Tigers about becoming the full-time right fielder in Detroit, and the two sides agreed to a deal on Nov. 16.
Hunter, who spent the first 10 years of his career with the Minnesota Twins, is extremely familiar with the American League Central and will come into Detroit and be a leader right away.
Here are the three reasons Hunter will be the Tigers' X-factor this season.
Consistent No. 2 Hitter
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Hunter will give the Tigers something they haven't had in several years: a reliable No. 2 hitter behind Austin Jackson and in front of Miguel Cabrera.
The players in the No. 2 slot for the Tigers last season had trouble producing consistently, combining to average .257 with 16 home runs and 76 RBI.
Hunter is a major upgrade from every player that the Tigers put in the No. 2 slot last season, including Brennan Boesch, Quintin Berry and Omar Infante.
Andy Dirks also spent a lot of time batting second last season. He had good numbers there, but wasn't at his best in that spot and didn't supply the power that manager Jim Leyland likes to have in that position.
Hunter is a complete hitter and has enough power left to be a perfect candidate for the No. 2 spot in Detroit.
He can drive in Jackson and will also get on base consistently to get the wheels turning for the big boys, like Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, behind him.
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Under Leyland, the Tigers have always had a solid, drama-free clubhouse. Hunter won't allow that to be any different under his watch.
He is the second-oldest player on the team behind relief pitcher Octavio Dotel and is one of the most widely respected players in baseball.
You have never heard of off-field issues for Hunter, and you'll never see him show up a teammate or get into an altercation that becomes a distraction.
He'll be a great mentor for phenom Avisail Garcia, who made his major league debut last season and had to grow up quickly as the primary right fielder in the playoffs. Hunter will allow Garcia to develop slowly, and he'll also be a great teammate and confidant for the young players on the Tigers roster.
He's been to the postseason six times in his career and has been to the AL Championship Series twice, providing a lot of experience in the clubhouse for a team that is still pretty young.
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At one point, Gold Glove awards had become a formality for Hunter. He won his first Gold Glove in 2001 and proceeded to win the award every year until 2009.
Hunter began his career playing in center field for the Twins, but as he got older and lost a step or two, he was moved to right field.
The Tigers haven't had a great defensive right fielder in several years and will greatly benefit from having a Gold Glove-quality defender in right that they won't have to hide.
Although he's been moved to right field, he's still very capable of providing highlight-reel plays and will be as dependable as anyone on the field.
Last season, he committed only four errors in 258 chances and had 14 assists. His 14 assists were tied for second-most among AL right fielders, and according to ESPN.com, his range factor was still among the best: fifth in the league.