Details: Torii Hunter joins the Angels on a five-year deal, worth $90 million.
Optimist’s argument: They may have won the AL West at a canter in 2007, but that’s not good enough for the Angels. Five years from their first World Series victory, this is a clear sign that they intend to get back there. Having secured a top pitcher in Jon Garland via a trade, they now add one of the premium free agents on the market. Adding Hunter gives the Angels a formidable group of outfielders and DH options, arguably the most formidable in the Majors.
Pessimist’s argument: A sign of poor planning if ever I’ve seen one. Paying $50 million for five years of Gary Matthews Jnr was one of the many examples of the money-rich going mad last year. Some may say this makes up for the mistake, but maybe it compounds it. Hunter isn’t quite the player he was before his horrific ankle injury in 2005 and combined with his age, there’s a good chance that more injuries may come followed by a move to a corner outfield spot. If so, Hunter’s going to look very expensive in a couple of years time, while Matthews will still be around on his inflated salary as well.
Voice of reason: There’s no doubt that this deal improves the Angels. Maybe the outfield didn’t appear to be a particular priority for them, but sometimes the wisest policy is to get the best talent you can and then work from there. They can now use their surplus of outfielders to trade for other useful parts, dealing from a position of strength. Hunter is still a top player with his bat and in the field and he’s an exceptional character to have in the clubhouse. $18m a year looks a touch on the heavy side, but the Angels have the financial backing to take that on the chin.
Wider impact rating: 9. This deal sets the market for the other main free agent centre fielders (Rowand, Andruw Jones, Mike Cameron) for a start. Whether Hunter’s other pursuers, the White Sox, the Royals and the Rangers, will now show similar interest in those three remains to be seen. As for the Twins, by all accounts they were nowhere close to the Angels’ offer and their fans will be hoping that means they are saving their money to re-sign Johan Santana, but will be fearing this is the start of an exodus of their top-shelf talent. Finally, having already swung one trade for Jon Garland, the Angels now have a surplus of outfielders to deal from (with the caveat that one or two will also go into the DH mix). The Miguel Carbera rumours continue to circulate and if they can bag the third baseman, they will have a seriously intimidating batting lineup.