There's enough smoke about a Twins-Torii Hunter reunion to make it definite that something is smouldering. Whether there's an actual fire is another matter.
This week's smoke signals have included a Charlie Walters (Pioneer Press) report that Hunter favors the Twins among his current suitors and Minnesota general manager Terry Ryan expounding to Sirus XM's MLB Network Radio on his desire to add a right-handed bat with experience to the outfield.
Sounds like a match.
But it hasn't happened yet, and Hunter's free agent history has been that when he has an offer he likes, he takes it. At this point in his previous forays into free agency, he's been signed already.
Hunter has a well-established knack for telling reporters what he thinks they want to hear. A Minnesota columnist asking about a reunion with the Twins? Sure, I'd love to return.
As I've said before, there are good reasons for Hunter to prefer a different team, one more ready to win now than the Twins are. Hunter is 39, and while he has aged remarkably well, time is undefeated. Hunter has yet to play in a World Series. Mike Berardino has suggested that the Twins aren't offering the money Hunter wants; I suspect Hunter will need a premium to abandon his quest for a ring in 2015.
All of which adds up to Hunter playing a waiting game.
And the Twins, I'm convinced, are overly interested in Hunter. Ryan says he wants "experience" and a right-handed hitter. I think he's got the wrong priorities.
Experience? I want the Twins to embrace the youth. I don't want a $10 million-a-year relic of glory days past getting in the way of glory days future. It may be that neither Eddie Rosario nor Byron Buxton should be in the majors in April or even June, but that should be a possibility.
Ryan says the Twins are overly left-handed in the outfield. I'm not used to hearing any concern from this organization about such issues in the past -- this is a team that embraced having a string of left-handed hitters in the top and middle of the lineup under Ron Gardenhire. Makes me wonder if new manager Paul Molitor is more concerned about the platoon advantage than Gardy was.
Set that speculation aside for now. One outfield spot is filled: Oswaldo Arcia in right. (Berardino has tweeted that should the Twins sign Hunter, Arcia will be moved to left so Hunter can play right; that would also be a mistake, albeit a lesser one than signing Hunter period.) Center and left field are open.
Leaving Rosario and Buxton out of the equation, the incumbent candidates are a pair of left-handed hitters (Jordan Schafer and Chris Parmelee) and a switch-hitter who's better right-handed (Aaron Hicks).
There's Danny Santana too, a switch hitter, but the indications are that he's going to be at shortstop. That's another decision, if true, that I'm not thrilled with.
The Twins could go with an outfield of Arcia, Santana and a timeshare of Hicks and Schafer. Against a right-handed starter, that would give them three lefty hitters, which shouldn't be a problem; against a lefty, they could have two right-handed sticks in the outfield by playing Santana and Hicks. That foursome might not provide great offense -- neither Hicks nor Schafer have impressive track records -- but either of them plus Santana should be able to cover some ground in the field, and that matters.
Let's be emphatic about this: If the Twins sign Hunter and pair him in the corner outfield with Arcia, it probably won't matter what moves the Twins make with the pitching staff. They will give up a lot of runs just on the lack of range in the outfield.