There was a time when the Giants were playing footsie with Torii Hunter, and it scared the bejeepers out of me. He eventually signed a five-year deal with the Angels worth $90 million, and I exhaled. That was one 32-year-old mistake the Giants weren't going to make.
Hunter was absolutely outstanding with the Angels, and he was more valuable over those five years than some All-Stars are for their entire career, averaging over four wins each season.
Two weeks later, the Giants signed Aaron Rowand.
We're here in the future, one in which that Aaron Rowand-signing team has three championships because nothing is fair, and the Giants are reportedly interested in Torii Hunter again. From Ken Rosenthal:
A number of teams have expressed preliminary interest in Torii Hunter, including #Royals, #Twins, #Cubs, #Rangers, #SFGiants, #Mariners…— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 10, 2014
Hashtag huh. There are close to a dozen teams interested, apparently, which might mean it will take a two- or three-year deal. Hunter is 39. When I put his name into my photo tool, a grown man shows up in a Notre Dame football uniform. That's because Hunter is old enough to have spawned a grown man in a football uniform.
He's also been remarkably consistent at the plate. He's a bit of a hacker, but he always has been, and since turning 30, his lowest OPS+ was 111 (twice) and his highest was 129. He's been on the DL just once in the last nine seasons. Ignoring the 39-year-old part, that sounds like a delightful player to have on a low-risk, short-term deal. Simply delightful.
There's a catch! There always is with free agents. According to advanced defensive statistics, Hunter was as bad in right field last year as Michael Morse was in left. You know how the defensive metrics like to bicker and snipe at each other, disagreeing on who's good and bad in the field? They all hate Hunter. Baseball Prospectus and FRAA absolutely loathe his defense. FanGraphs had him as the second-worst defensive player in baseball last year. Not outfielder. The second-worst player. I didn't watch him until the postseason, but I can vouch that he looked more like an ex-catcher with two bad knees rather than an ex-Gold Glove centerfielder, at least in my limited viewing. I reached out to Kurt Mensching of Bless You Boys, and he confirmed as much.
Defensive stats, especially for a single season, can be wonky. Just because a guy hits .210 doesn't mean he's a .210 hitter. There are ups and downs in a season, and defensive metrics are based on smaller samples than batting average. So don't take the numbers as gospel. It's also true that players read the ball better in different outfield positions. Gregor Blanco seems like he reads the ball much better in left than center, for example. It's possible that after nearly two decades of center-fielding, Hunter just couldn't pick up right. He could be okay in left, though.
He's also 39. As tempting as another above-average bat would be in left, I'm a gonna suggest the Giants pass on this chance for Hunter, too. He might not be the worst defender in baseball, but he's clearly not good afield anymore, and it's not like that's going to get better with age.
I like the idea, though. But only if there's a time machine and a scout who comes back optimistic about Hunter's defense. Besides, I've already confused myself six times, wondering why I'm writing about Hunter Pence. That would get old by March.