Friday, November 23, 2007

Torii: Go West, Young Man.

Young might be a bit of a stretch nonetheless Torii's youthful and infectious smile coupled with his front-and-center interviews with Best-Damn-Sports-Show-Period will play well from LA-LA Land. For a spell. As Dave over at USS Mariner has pointed out, Torii's contract demand is a "landmine" - the back-end of his contract would be too pricey for a 37-year-old corner outfielder who could be on and off the DL regularly. Considering the market for a centerfielder (White Sox, Rangers, Dodgers, Angels, Twins), his valuation was expected to be through the roof. there are plenty of franchises just has eager to hand over the money for the front part of his contract. The Angels will certainly look like the team to beat in the AL West with Matthews and Hunter patrolling two-thirds of the outfield. The Twins are small market team and were not willing to subtract from the talent of the ballclub in contract years four and five and I for one cannot blame them.

Where I can blame them is for not adequately preparing for this very situation. Whether it was Twins not restaffing the farm system with centerfield candidates when Denard Span did not live up to his prospect status or the inability to move Hunter in the past offseason (or during the season for that matter) or the foresight necessary to read the free agent/trade market for current centerfielders. I can blame the organization for not being prepared for this. I can.

Torii was on Dan Barreiro this afternoon repeating the mantra that he really, really, really wanted to stay with the Twins, and Barreiro was pissy about the Twins not offering him the money, but $18 million a season is crazy dough. It is, no question. And the Angels are just the franchise to understand what it means to overpay a centerfielder. This past offseason the Angels signed the 32-year-old Gary Matthews Jr to a unconscionable contract calling for 5-years/$55 million. Similar to Hunter, Matthews had a season that was well above his career numbers. His career line was .263/.336/.419 through 2006 following a break out .313/.371/.495 2006 campaign for the Texas Rangers. In his first season with the Angels in his new contract, he performed below his previous career line at .252/.323/.419. While not known for being nearly as fluctuating offensively as Matthews, what some argue as Hunter's best season (I disagree, it was his 26-year-old season in 2002), his 2007 line of .287/.334/.505 was significantly higher than his career line at .271/.324/.469.

Does this mean he won't replicate his 2007 performance? Of course not, he still could hit with the same numbers but all statistical indicators regarding age and previous performance tells us that he certainly won't produce steadily that kind of output over the course of a five-year contract. In fact, it is more probable that his output could significantly drop-off in 2008. His defense will continue to be an asset, and I would assume that he will be a great corner outfielder when his 37-year-old legs finally breakdown in year four or five of his contract minus the power that comes from a left or right fielder. The Twins knew this and decided not to play ball.