Thursday, June 29, 2006

What's Hunter Worth?

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The Twins have a big decision to make within the next month regarding Torii Hunter. Picking up his $12 million option would seem out of the question to a team with the Twins means – even to Torii. “I hope it's with a long-term deal, (because) I can't see it with the option," Torii reportedly said to’s Jayson Stark. "If they felt they had to go with the option, then I would be out of here July 31."

The reality is that neither option is very palatable to the Twins. Either they pay him $12 million to stay for one more year, or they pay him $2 million to leave as a free agent with no compensation beyond a possible draft pick. The third option – trade him for cheaper players or prospects before the end of July – isn’t going to be considered if the Twins are within shouting distance of the playoffs.

There’s one more option which Torii has mentioned a number of times – rip up the current contract and sign Hunter to a long-term deal. That’s a tricky proposition, and not just because it would need to happen over the next month, when it’s bound to be a distraction. The bigger problem is that it’s damn hard to figure out exactly what Hunter’s worth based on some of the other contracts that have been handed out lately. Given these deals, what would you pay Hunter?

I think most people would agree that Hunter slots in below Damon and above Cameron or Finley, but that leaves a range of salary between $7 million and $13 million per year. Would Hunter accept a four-year deal for $32 million plus the $2 million buyout? Would he be willing to do that when large market teams like the Angels or Dodgers might be waiting to offer him $44+ million? Would Terry Ryan be willing to tie up that much money when he has Lew Ford on the roster and Denard Span playing in AA-New Britain?

Hunter says there hasn't been a hint from the front office that they want to start negotiating a long term deal. Looking at the questions above, and with the possible range in salaries, it wouldn’t be too shocking if the Twins decided the chance of negotiating successfully in the next month was outweighed by the risk of it affecting Hunter’s performance. Or, possibly, Ryan has just delayed his decision until the all-star break so he give the Tigers or White Sox some more time to cool off.

But the clock is ticking. If the Twins find themselves on August first with Torii Hunter, without a long-term deal, and with no realistic chance of making the playoffs, Ryan will have made a mistake that a payroll-capped team like the Twins can’t afford. Literally.


Anonymous said...

Does this really HAVE to be settled by the July 31st trade deadline? Why couldn't the Twins tell Torii, "Look we want to keep you: you're our team leader, the face of the organization, and a helluva center fielder. You know that we can't give you the bucks some other teams could. But we know you like playing on this team and would love to be here for the new stadium. So maybe there's a deal we can all live happily with. But focusing on that now would be a big distraction for you, us, and everybody else, so how about we agree to talk after the season and try our hardest to work something out then?"

Sure, if negotiations ultimately fail, the Twins end up paying $2 million for a draft pick, and that would be a bad outcome. But unless the Twins fall apart in July and it's a sellers' market for outfielders, all the other options are DEFINITELY bad. So why not try the one that at least has the potential of a big positive payoff?

Boaterhagz said...

My question is this - Does Torii's value increase or decrease in 2007 if we pick up his option? At first look, I would think that it decreases a bit - but at the same time there is less risk - especially for a team that is just getting over being burned by Joe Mays. $12M is a bunch, but its a lot less than $30-$40M that they would probably have to pay Torii over 3-4 years, if he were to get injured agian. If they can delay their decision on Torii for a while and still retain some potential trade value, it is probably the more like move.

Personally I would try to sign him to a 4 yr, $40M deal for 2007,8,9,10 with an option for 2011 based on plate appearances or something. But I just think the Twins (Ryan & Pohlad) are much to risk adverse to hand out that contract to a player on the wrong side of 30.

dlarso01 said...

Still like the option of trading Torii for a quality pitching prospect, then adding a couple of our own prospects to the pot in exchange for Carl Crawford. We get an affordable, quality centerfielder. Bingo.

Lonestar said...

How many times have I imagined trading Torii, to replace him with Jacque Jones or Lew Ford. JJ's gone. I was wrong about LEW. And what makes you think .291/.340/.339/.679 in AA is the answer?

I would be playing Alex Romero in CF now. He might be a Curtis Granderson type. He might be a 4th OF type.

What teams are in the market for a CF of Torii's ilk? Yankees, White Sox, Astros, Angels, and Red Sox (if Pena is slow to recover and Crisp continues to suck). I don't see a match in Houston. The Yankees can offer Tabata and saving $2 million, maybe more this year. There are possibilities with the ChiSox, Angels (if they stay in the race), and BoSox.

I am guessing Ryan will figure he is just a couple of pieces from seriously contending in a do-over next year. Torii provides Gold Glove (tm) defense between the statuesque Cuddyer and Kubel and he mashes LHP's. So Ryan will exercise his option. If you think of the $2 MM buy-out as a sunk cost, Torii would cost $10 MM next year -- that's cheaper than this year.

The Twins won't be paying Lohse or Stewart next year and likely Radke. The free agent market stinks, so Ryan doesn't really need the space under the Pohlad's arbitrary, self-imposed salary cap. It would be a plus if they could make Castillo disappear.

spycake said...

I pretty much agree with Lonestar, but I wouldn't rule out Houston as a bidder for Hunter. They are probably the closest to getting Torii to agree to a "hometown discount."

I don't the option year is anywhere near off the table. $12 million isn't really excessive if you're willing to pay the guy $8 + $2 million buyout. In fact, it might be worth it if you get to see how Hunter ages for another year, and to see how our potential replacements develop.

In fact, I imagine the option year was included as "insurance" in case Hunter's career was wrecked by injury, or perhaps in case the team plummeted to Royals-like depths. Since neither one of those is presently true, I think the option will be exercised.

John Sharkey said...

I'm starting to come around on the idea of picking up the option. There is going to be ample payroll space; room to lock up a few younger players, afford a few raises due, maybe grab a free agent to fill a hole, and still pay the $12 million option. That gives everyone more time to figure things out. There is no ready replacement, and most of the trading resources should go towards trying to fill thrid base.

frightwig said...

How do you figure that Hunter slots in above Cameron?

Both are excellent defensive players, but Cameron is the better bat. Torii is a couple years younger, but has made it known that he feels chronic pain in his back and legs. Given a choice between the two, I'd take Mike Cameron.

John Sharkey said...

I think Mike Cameron is generally undervalued (and underpaid). People tend to focus on his strikeout rate, rather than all of the things he does well.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you two guys about Hunter and Cameron.
Hunter career numbers
.267 .322 .456 .778
Cameron career numbers
.250 .341 .442 .783
Hunter is obviously a couple slots higher with offense and especially defense.

Anonymous said...

Wow you are missing the boat. Hunter is more than just dollar and cents. The answer is not in the numbers, it is in the hearts of the players.