Torii Hunter: How He Will Impact the 2013 Detroit Tigers

Keely FlanaganContributor IIINovember 14, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers runs for a ball hit by Torii Hunter #48 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in game one of the double header at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 30, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

The reigning American League champion Detroit Tigers have made a big early signing this offseason, taking Torii Hunter off the free-agent market Wednesday afternoon .  

Hunter agreed to a two-year, $26 million deal with Detroit. By adding Hunter to their roster, the Tigers fill a need for outfield depth (via ESPN).

And after watching Delmon Young spike a baseball into the grass at AT&T Park in the World Series, they need a defensive presence in the outfield. 

Hunter had a banner year in his last season with the Angels, batting .313 with 93 RBI's. He is a veteran player and an asset in the clubhouse, known for his leadership qualities and unselfish play. There's a reason Hunter was at the top of a lot of teams' lists going into the 2012 offseason. The Yankees were in hot pursuit, with former Angels first baseman Mark Teixeira being a huge fan of the possible deal.  

But just like the ALCS, the Tigers won the day, and Hunter will join a loaded offense in need of a consistent defensive outfielder. 

The question now is whether Hunter will live up to these expectations. 

In terms of offense, Hunter will probably bat second, between leadoff hitter Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera in the three-hole. The Tigers need to get runners on base in order to maximize Cabrera's offensive prowess, which means Jackson and Hunter need to make things happen early in the lineup. Jackson's on-base percentage improved to .377 after a dismal .317 produced in 2011. He is on the lower end of solid, but he strikes out a lot (134 K's in 2012 compared to 67 walks).

The Tigers don't need Hunter to hit for power. They already have Cabrera and the power-hitting Prince Fielder. They need Hunter to hit with consistency, which is exactly what Hunter has proven he can do. He is a career .277 batter, accumulating nearly 2000 hits in 16 years of service.

What the Tigers can not afford to do is live and die on the long-ball. The biggest offensive weakness, as demonstrated by their poor performance in the World Series, is their inability to manufacture runs. If Hunter is able to get on base and hit consistently, Cabrera and Fielder will have more RBI opportunities, and Jackson will have more opportunities to score.  

Hunter is an improvement defensively for Detroit. He has a career .992 fielding percentage and can play any position in the outfield. Despite finishing in the middle of the pack statistically in 2012, the Tigers defense could use a strong outfielder with experience. 

After signing Hunter, the Tigers are effectively off the list of potential destinations for Josh Hamilton. However, in many ways, Hunter is a better fit and comes at a much cheaper price. Again, the Tigers don't need to add another superstar to their lineup. The Hunter contract demonstrates that the Detroit front office means business. Even better, they make a statement without spending an exorbitant amount of money. 

Plus, Hamilton can be streaky, and that's exactly what the Tigers need to avoid.  

By adding Hunter to their roster, Detroit has potentially made one of the best offseason moves thus far.