A trip to the World Series last season wasn’t enough for the Detroit Tigers. The franchise still won’t stop until it wins its first World Series title since 1984. On Wednesday, ownership made it evident, signing free agent outfielder Torii Hunter to a two-year, $26 million contract.
The 37-year-old hit .313 last season with the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim, in Orange County, near Disneyland – or wherever the team is located these days – but the team declined to make him an offer after his five-year, $90 million contract ended, along with the Angels’ playoff hopes in October.
Hunter is a career .277 hitter with 297 home runs, but it’s his presence in the field that has made him a four-time All-Star. In 14 seasons with the Angels and Minnesota Twins he managed to earn nine Gold Gloves and practically became a human highlight reel.
The Tigers wasted little time signing Hunter, after he went to Detroit for a visit on Monday. It’s the second straight off-season the Tigers have dug into their wallets to sign one of the biggest names on the market. Last year, the team signed All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract, which is among the largest in Major League Baseball.
Hunter will now be fit into a lineup that already includes Fielder, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and catcher Victor Martinez. Hunter also is a career .289 hitter against left-handers, which is a welcome addition for a team that hit a ho-hum .253 against lefties in 2012.
Getting a corner outfielder was the team’s biggest need this winter after outfielders Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn – two players the Tigers were hoping would provide solid production – were switched out after disappointing starts. Hunter won his nine Gold Gloves from 2001-09, before switching from center field to right but there’s no arguing that he’s lost a step or two after getting older.
The addition of Hunter only makes the Tigers even scarier. With Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in the rotation, Detroit has the big arms to win big games. Add Phil Coke and Jose Valverde – if re-signed – coming out of the bullpen and you have one solid pitching squad. It really might just depend on if the team can put it all together at the right time – and get hot, of course.
With Hunter now part of the lineup, it’s tough to think there is any team in baseball right now that has a more potent lineup than the Tigers.
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