Bomber Bites With Jumping Joe–Torii Hunter Might Make Sense For Bombers
By Joe Vitulli
The Yankees will be looking for a fourth outfielder this off-season. They could bring back Ichiro Suzuki or Chris Young but odds are against either of those two options. Ichiro can hit for average and still has his speed and is a good defender but he has zero power and was exposed last season when he played much more than expected. Young had a terrific September for the Yankees after a dismal several months for the cross town Mets that ended with his release. Putting too much stock in numbers that come in September and March can doom a franchise. Young is probably more the player he was in Queens than the one he was in the Bronx. There is not much major league ready talent in the minors, so the fourth outfielder job will likely be filled via free agency.
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Assuming he does not decide to retire, one name the Yankees should at least consider is Torri Hunter. Hunter has spent the last two seasons in Detroit, who is unlikely to resign the 39 year old outfielder. While he would certainly not help the Yankees get younger next season, he may be able to help them get better. The five time All Star had a productive season in 2014, hitting .286 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI. He would have led the Yankees in average and RBI last season and been tied with Brett Gardner for third on the team in home runs. Defensively, he is no where near the player he once was but that would likely be mitigated by the boost in offense he could give the team.
Mandatory Credit: Chad R. MacDonald.
It is questionable whether Hunter would accept a reserve role with Yankees who are expected to have a starting outfielder of Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. However, Hunter seems to have enough left in the tank that he could make a play for the right field spot over Beltran, who struggled mightily in his first season in Bronx. Hunter is only two years removed from his last All Star appearance and Silver Slugger and has been a consistent hitter throughout his career. A one year contract for about $8-10 million would likely do the trick to ink the nine time Gold Glover, a hefty sum for a reserve but nothing the Yankees can’t afford.
Torii Hunter will not make the Yankees a playoff team. But he could be a valuable role player and give the Bombers depth for next season. With so much of their disaterous lineup from last season locked in for next season, any upgrades are likely to be incremental. The Yankees would be wise to stockpile some depth for next season when the inevitable tide of injuries begins to flow through the clubhouse. Hunter could be a valuable part of that depth and a huge upgrade over Ichiro. He is likely worth a one year deal from the Bombers but any more than that would be foolhardy.