The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, a team very much in transition, declined to make a qualifying offer of $13.3 million for one year to their right fielder, Torii Hunter Friday night, allowing Hunter to depart in MLB free agency without netting the Angels a compensatory draft pick. The New York Yankees immediately became the favorites for Hunter.
New York is going to struggle to get its payroll under $189 million in time for the 2014 season, when they are tremendously incentivized to do so under the luxury-tax and revenue-sharing policies of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. They need to be drafting and developing their own stars again, after years of acquiring their top-line guys (CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Soriano, Curtis Granderson) after their costs were far out of any control. The fact that Hunter will not cost a draft pick makes it much easier for New York to commit to him, since it halves their opportunity cost.
More importantly, though, Hunter is a fit in terms of what New York needs and what they look for. He’s the polished, personable clubhouse presence the Yankees prize. He’s a right-handed hitter in right field and a plus defender there. He does more on offense than three true outcomes, and in fact, isn’t much of a three true outcomes guy at all. He hit .389 on balls in play in 2012, which he will not repeat, but he’ll get some power bump from Yankee Stadium if he chooses its coziness over Angel Stadiums roominess.
Since surrendering center field to Peter Bourjos, Michael Trout and Father Time, Hunter has made clear that he still has the athleticism to be a plus-plus defender in a corner spot. In combination with Brett Gardner and Granderson, Hunter would help the Yanks systematically take fly ball hits away from teams on a nightly basis. He wasn’t worth $13 million over a single season to the Angels, but $28-32 million over three years (perhaps the last of which being an option) seems reasonable, and it says here he will sign that deal with the Navy Stripers.Next post: MLB Free Agency Gets a Wild Start from Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs
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