October 18, 2005

Hunter Rumors

When the story about Torii Hunter selling his home in Golden Valley broke last month and rumors of Hunter being on the trading block started to circulate, a lot of Twins fans seemed to brush it off as having no basis in reality. I wrote an entry about potentially dealing Hunter and got quite a few e-mails telling me how silly I was for thinking that the Twins would even consider parting with him.

Now, I have no idea whether or not Hunter is indeed on the block. However, I do know that his name has been popping up quite a bit in newspapers across the country over the last couple weeks. Below are a few of the Hunter mentions I've stumbled across already this week.

In a column entitled "How To Fix The Yankees" in Tuesday's Bergen Record, Bob Klapisch wrote:

Acquire Torii Hunter: The Yankees' defensive liability in center field arguably cost them the division series. Although Bubba Crosby did nothing wrong while crashing into Gary Sheffield in Game 5 - allowing the Angels to the score the decisive runs - a more confident, take-charge outfielder would've tracked the ball before Sheffield got that close.


What would it cost the Yankees to get a Gold Glove center fielder? Considering the drop-off they experienced with Bernie Williams and Crosby, Hunter is worth whatever the Twins ask for - up to and including Carl Pavano, prospects such as Eric Duncan and Phillip Hughes and, of course, old-school cash.

This is why people love to hate the Yankees. In talking about dealing for a good but certainly not great player, Klapisch says, "Hunter is worth whatever the Twins ask for." Compare that sort of thinking to my reaction to the Twins possibly dealing for Alfonso Soriano a few months back, which was basically "I hope they don't give up anyone decent for him."

If the Yankees want to give up solid prospects like Eric Duncan and Phillip Hughes, I'd gladly send them Hunter and spend his $10 million somewhere else in 2006. If they want to add in some money or pay for the Twins to take Carl Pavano, that's even better.

As you might guess, Klapisch isn't even close to the only columnist suggesting the Yankees go after Hunter. In a column entitled "Yankees waiting for Brian's call" in Monday's New York Daily News, Sam Borden wrote:

Figure out the outfield

The first step is easy: Re-sign Hideki Matsui, who could be one of the biggest free agents available if the Yanks don't lock him up. Assuming they do - and assuming Matsui stays in left field - the next move is landing a center fielder, most likely via trade. ... [M]aybe a blockbuster with the Twins could be had: Torii Hunter for Robinson Cano?

Hunter-for-Robinson Cano is actually a deal that has popped into my head, and I would do it without hesitation. Cano was a rookie this year and hit .297/.320/.458 as a 22-year-old second baseman. He has his faults, of course, but he'll make a total of about a million bucks over the next three seasons and would give the Twins a middle infielder with some pop for the first time in a while.

Jon Heyman of New York Newsday also suggests the Hunter-for-Cano deal, and there are about a dozen other New York papers with writers suggesting Hunter as Bernie Williams' replacement in center field.

While the Hunter rumors are the strongest in New York, they certainly aren't limited to the East Coast. In a column entitled "Disappointed Angels Look to the Future" in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times, Mike DiGiovanna wrote:

The Angels could look to trade for a proven run-producer, with Minnesota center fielder Torii Hunter, Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez and Florida first baseman Carlos Delgado possibly in their sights.

Aside from the fact that calling Hunter "a proven run producer" and then putting him in the same category as Manny Ramirez and Carlos Delgado is extremely amusing, the Angels seem like a believable destination. They have a need in center field, with Steve Finley struggling this year and turning 41 years old next season, they have an owner who is seemingly always willing to add payroll, and they have quite a few good prospects.

I'd love to see the Twins go after Casey Kotchman, Kendry Morales, Alberto Callaspo, and/or Erick Aybar. I'm assuming Brandon Wood and Howie Kendrick are off limits, and Jeff Mathis plays one of the few positions the Twins don't need help at, but I'd even add Dallas McPherson to the list of young guys the Twins would be smart to ask for in a deal.

The more I think about what it's going to take for the Twins to compete with the White Sox and Indians going forward, the more I think dealing Hunter is a realistic option. It boils down to getting younger, cheaper offensive players to stick in the lineup, while simultaneously being able to use Hunter's significant salary elsewhere. The big question will be whether or not the players being mentioned in connection with Hunter are actually available to the Twins. If they are, Terry Ryan should make a move.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Champagne on Hold: Game 5 of the NLCS (by Brian Gunn)
- Pujols Carries Cards to St. Louis (by Dan Fox)
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)

Today's Picks (124-106, +$1,815):
Houston (Oswalt) +145 over St. Louis (Mulder)

Thursday's Picks:
Virginia Tech -10 (-110) over Maryland

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