Hunter A Fit With Rangers

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.

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