CONFIRMED: Torii Hunter has decided to retire from playing baseball. Thanks for the memories Torii! #MNTwins— Dustin Morse (@Twins_morsecode) October 27, 2015
Which is, frankly, a relief. The Twins had been signaling for weeks, if not months, that Hunter was welcome to return, and it was not easy to see how they could justify him as a full-time, or nearly so, outfielder in 2016.
And maybe that's what led to this earlier than anticipated announcement. Late in the season, remember, Hunter had said he'd decide after the college football season (two of his sons are collegiate players). It may be that after or during the Twins organizational meetings this month Terry Ryan called Hunter and said: We'd love to have you back, but you have to understand that you're behind Hicks, Buxton and Rosario. Your playing time is going to be limited. And Hunter made the understandable decision that he's not willing to sacrifice another year to baseball if he's going to be a bit player.
I'd like to think that the Twins took an honest, objective look at their talent and recognized that it was time to move on to the next generation. It's also possible that they were willing to have Buxton open the 2016 season at Triple A, keep Hunter as the primary right fielder and wait for an injury or failure to open a spot. If that was the case, Hunter just saved the Twins from themselves.
I wrote a lot about Torii Hunter in 2015, maybe too much, but he was certainly a key piece of the season for the Twins. 2016 will have a different focal point, for good or ill.