Thursday, July 16, 2015

Contemplating the right field situation

Torii Hunter has started 67 games in right
field and 11 at designated hitter.
Torii Hunter's return to Minnesota has gone better than I expected, which could merely mean that the 39-year-old (he turns 40 Friday) isn't actively hurting the club. It's been better than that. His overall hitting numbers make him the third most productive bat among the regulars, behind Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe.

He entered the break with 14 homers, second on the club -- this after hitting 17 in each of the past two seasons and 16 the year before that. His batting average is markedly lower, however, so his on-base and slugging percentages are essentially in line with last season. Merely maintaining production at his age is remarkable, but Hunter has for years defied the decline that typically accompanies aging.

His defense is another matter. The eight-time Gold Glove winner still looks good in the outfield, but the metrics continue to say that he doesn't get to a lot of balls in right field. Baseball Reference's version of wins above replacement (bWAR) says he's a replacement-level player overall.

It's theoretically possible that the Twins could improve on Hunter as a right fielder. But we know they aren't going to remake the roster that drastically. The stat sheet doesn't quantify clubhouse chemistry. Hunter is very much at the center of this team, and any attempts to upgrade the roster will not involve the players at the center of the roster.

The realistic question is: Will the Twins bring him back for his age-40 season in 2016? Imagine for a moment that something took Hunter off the roster now. The most likely response by the Twins would be to recall Oswaldo Arcia and reinstall him in an outfield corner, with Eddie Rosario filling the other. With the passage of time, the now-sidelined Byron Buxton and Max Kepler would figure to be factors as well.

If the Twins bring Hunter back for 2016, he would block at least one young outfielder. Which, if that is their intent, makes it easier to trade one (or more) away this summer.


  1. I'm expecting that the Twins will soon announce an extension for Hunter and trade Arcia for the 2015 version of Matt Capps. Arcia will find a home and become a solid player for another team whose front office is more firmly ensconced in the 21st century.

  2. Twins probably cannot find a place to play play all their blue chip prospects.

    Twins crystal ball is not clearer than competition, but no worse than what other teams have either.

    Twins might trade a player that later becomes an all star for a different team. That is luck based upon what happens after a trade.

  3. They themselves are blocking their blue-clip prospects by signing low-ceiling washed-up veterans. Hunter is blocking Hicks and Rosario and Arcia. Pelfrey and Nolasco and Santana are blocking May and Meyer and Barrios. The team traded for Capps because they thought that saves have a value. These decisions aren't related to the possession of a crystal ball; they are related to a lack of understanding how winning teams are built.