Merely a week ago Torii Hunter announced his "plans" on possibly retiring after the 2012 season. For once it's good to see a baseball player, let alone a Halo, want to end their career on their own terms. Nobody wants to see Torii Hunter play through a nosedive a-la Vladimir Guerrero, but it is possible he could have a few more seasons left in him? To Torii Hunter it's a possiblility, but could the numbers be there to back up a stretch of a couple more seasons?
Could a return to Minnesota be in the cards for Torii Hunter?
Torii said he's going to evaluate whether or not he should retire during the off-season, but if he keeps up his hot performance and the team manages to get to the playoffs he could have little time for thinking during the off-season. All it would take for Torii to keep his career going is if the Angels cannot only make it to the playoffs, but if he can perform during the playoffs as well. Every player wants to retire with a ring on their finger, and Torii Hunter is no different. The only thing that is going to push him towards retirement after 2012 is if the Angels show little to no chance of making it back to the playoffs. But he isn't just going to be stuck in Anaheim if he chooses to forward his career; he does have other options to pursue. Scratch that, there's only 1 option aside from the Angels open for Hunter, and that is a return to the Twins.
He said he wanted to retire an Angel and if he wants to come back, the Angels will have first dibs on him. This makes me feel good since the Angels won't have to worry about competing with other clubs tooth and nail like they have during their previous big free agent expenditures; and he won't have to worry about giving himself the old fashion Torii Hunter free agent sales pitch that has worked so well during the past few offseasons. There are few things stopping him from returning to Minnesota however, one of them being Twins GM Bill Smith. This is a man who Hunter regards as having, and I quote, "no heart, no compassion, no nothing." If it does come down to the Angels and the Twins bidding for Hunter, granted his performance hasn't dropped off, his interactions with Bill Smith is going to play a huge role in the decision he ultimately decides to make.
Would Torii Hunter be able to fit with the club if he returned in 2013? Let's pretend the Angels make no significant upgrades over DH or LF, if that happens Torii can take up all the ABs at DH since he won't be competing with anyone for regular ABs. However, if Vernon Wells still stinks two years from now, which would be a year away from free agency, the Angels could make a move to improve over Wells in left and move him over into the DH spot. At that point Torii Hunter has to compete with Vernon Wells for AB's, something that might not turn out so pretty. The DH spot is pretty much for aged or aging players who aren't as physically gifted as their younger selves. Look at David Ortiz, Jorge Posada, Matsui, Guerrero and pretty much every other DH in the AL. Aside from Ortiz, who's having one of the best seasons of his career, most of those guys are on the down slide in their careers. An aged Hunter and Wells battling for ABs out of the DH hole might not be the best thing for the Angels offense. I want to think Torii Hunter is going to play like he has been for the past couple months for the rest of his career, but I think it would probably look a lot more like the first half of his season.
Would he fit in better with the Twins? I'm going to be real here and say no, at least not if they don't shape it up after this surprisingly terrible season they've been having. I seriously doubt Hunter is going to want to live out his last days toiling away with a team scraping the bottom of the AL Central barrel. He's going to be keeping an eye on their regular season progress, if they don't get any better we can pretty much check them of his list for him. As for the rest of the list, it's probably extremely thin. Thin on the lines of only having one other prospective team on his list, the Angels. He's not going to go anywhere other than Minnesota or Anaheim to finish off his career, I seriously doubt him taking a one-year contract to finish off his career with a scrub team like the Orioles or the Royals.
I see no reason for Hunter not to return to Anaheim in 2013. He's already stated his willingness to move to DH so Mike Trout can regularly patrol right field, so there won't be any problems as to where he'll play. He'd make a great mentor for all of our young players either coming up to the team or rookies having a tough time adjusting to the majors. There's no question that his influences on Peter Bourjos have positively affected his game in a major way, and having Hunter there to keep Mike Trout under his wing would work wonders for the team. The Angels are going to have to look past his production on the field, and look at what he'll be able to do for the team off of the field. I guess I've made it pretty obvious at this point that I want Torii Hunter to stay in Anaheim past 2012, granted he's still playing at a tolerable level, mostly for one reason.
If he's gone, who will lead the team?
Mike Trout is going to be this team's leader in the near future; it's just a matter of how long it will take him to grow until that roll. Keeping Hunter on the roster will not only speed up that growth, it will take Trout's leadership ability and catapult it far beyond what anyone could expect. Torii Hunter may not need the Angels after 2012, but the Angels sure are going to need him. There will be a place for Torii in Anaheim, baseball playing days and beyond, I just hope 2012 our last year of Torii Hunter. That kind of energy cannot be replaced so easily, I just hope the Angels recognize this as such.
I think Reagins might have another Del Taco trip in his near future.