Monday, September 21, 2015

More on Hunter and the outfield choices

The Monday print column examined Paul Molitor's September reliance on Torii Hunter and the possibility that the veteran's resurgence would result in his return in 2016.

On Sunday, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo's notes column contained this paragraph:

7. Torii Hunter, RF, Twins — He has said he’s going year to year, but the Twins want him back for at least one more season, according to a team official. The impact Hunter has made in the clubhouse and leading a team featuring some younger players has been off the charts. Hunter, 40, is hitting .242 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs. He also has played a good right field.

I would dispute the last sentence, but the rest is plausible -- especially if Molitor, Terry Ryan and the other evaluators doubt that Bryon Buxton is ready to hit major league pitching. Plausible but essentially self-defeating, unless (as I said in the column) there is an explicit understanding that Hunter is not expected to be a regular.

It's a numbers game. Leaving Hunter out of the 2016 equation for now, the Twins have Buxton, Aaron Hicks and Eddie Rosario as presumptive regulars, plus Southern League MVP Max Kepler pounding on the door. The four young guys have their flaws, but so does Hunter -- and the foursome have futures. I want them to play. Hunter, if he expects to be in the lineup six days a week, is in the way.

It may well be that Hunter's two-month slump in July and August was connected to a shoulder injury, and some may argue that his season stats should be discounted as a result. I would say otherwise. Injuries happen, and they happen more often to, and persist longer for, 40-year-olds than for 25-year olds. (I would also suggest that if Hunter hit .130 in August because of an injury, playing with the ailment hurt the club.)

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