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Numbers Game: Tigers add Torii Hunter

Scott Cullen
11/14/2012 4:34:09 PM
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The Detroit Tigers brought in a proven veteran to upgrade one of their weak spots in the lineup.

Numbers Game looks at the signing of Torii Hunter.

The Tigers Get: OF Torri Hunter.

Hunter, 37, has been one of this generation's premier defensive centre fielders, winning nine Gold Gloves, before shifting to right field in 2012 to make room for Mike Trout in the Angels' outfield.

Moving to a corner outfield spot once again gave Hunter an advantage over his competition in the field because, even as he slows down in his late thirties, Hunter has more range than typical corner outfielders, so his defence and base running contributed significantly to an overall fWAR of 5.3 (www.fangraphs.com), the best mark of his career, which ranked fourth overall among major league rightfielders in 2012, behind Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and Giancarlo Stanton.

Hunter hit a career-best .313, thanks in part to a .389 batting average on balls in play, the highest in the American League among qualified hitters, and an indication that luck was part of the reason for his 2012 success.

Nevertheless, Hunter has hit at least 20 home runs and driven in at least 80 runs in 10 of the last 12 seasons and has posted an OPS better than .800 in eight of the last 12 seasons, including .817 last season, so it's fair to expect consistent offensive production, even with some expected decline due to age over the next couple seasons.

Signed for two years and $26-million, Hunter will be an upgrade in right field for the Tigers, where last season's starter, Brennan Boesch, struggled last season, hitting .240 with a .658 OPS.

Anaheim could turn to Mark Trumbo, who saw the second-most action in right field for the Angels in 2012. He's nowhere near the fielder that Hunter is, and Trumbo slumped significantly (10 HR, .227 AVG, .630 OPS) in the second half last season, but it's a viable way to keep Trumbo's power in the lineup.

In the grand scheme, Hunter doesn't come cheaply, but it's a fair price and term for a player who has been so consistently productive throughout his career.

For a team that reached the World Series in 2012, the Tigers are clearly making a strong push to win against next season and signing Hunter represents an upgrade at a position of need, which is exactly how contenders are supposed to go about spending their free agent dollars.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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