The Rangers need a long-term center fielder, and they play 45 minutes from Torii Hunter’s hometown. Seems like a perfect fit, right?
Maybe. But according to Hunter yesterday, his heart still lies in Minnesota. It seems that if the Twins can muster even a fairly competitive long-term offer for him, he’ll stay. Hunter’s next deal will cover his age 32-35 seasons, at the least. $13MM annually might be considered a discount. Will the Twins at least offer Hunter a Johnny Damon contract? Even if they did, he would have to turn a blind eye to more lucrative offers. I think some team would give him a fifth year, and $15MM a year seems plenty possible following a career season.
The Rangers could certainly use Hunter in the lineup, especially if they trade Mark Teixeira for pitching (as has been speculated). The team entered the season with a $71MM payroll, down from a high of $105MM in 2002. Money coming off the books in ’08: Gagne ($6MM+), Lofton ($6MM), Wilkerson ($4.35MM), Sosa (about $2.4MM), and Mahay ($1.2MM). That’s about $20MM, plus a random Jerry Hairston here and there. On the other hand, some players have escalating salaries for ’08: Millwood ($1MM), Padilla ($2MM), Teixeira ($2.6MM), Blalock ($1.2MM), plus various other minor increases and arb-eligible guys. Still, the Rangers should clear about $13MM even if they keep Teixeira, meaning there is definitely room for Hunter in the payroll.
I should add that if Alex Rodriguez becomes a free agent, that’s $27MM saved for Texas.