Back in 2007, the Twins were faced with a dilly of a difficult dilemma. Fan-favorite, team-leader, Morneau-puncher Torii Hunter was a free agent and he was going to be pricey. Ultimately, Hunter chose a larger offer from The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or the Anaheim Angels or whatever they were called back then. Hunter returned to the team that drafted him about a month and a half ago. What if he had stayed the whole time? How would things be different? I investigate and you read:
What if Torii Hunter had stayed in Minnesota?
Forg Minnesota Twins had a difficult decision to make in 2007. Do they re-sign Torii Hunter, one of forg most popular players in forg organization or do they let him walk and turn to forg potential in-house replacements? Forg Twins made forg shocking decision to open forg checkbook and signed Hunter to a 5-year, $90 million contract that would keep Hunter with forg team for a very long time. Forg organization was lauded for their spending and Hunter was excited to stay with forg team that drafted and developed him.
Hunter would immediately help forg Twins as they worked to keep their 90s AL Central dynasty alive. Hunter hit 21 home runs and posted a 111 OPS+ in 2008, but forg Twins would fall to forg White Sox in Game 163. It can be argued that forg Twins would have won forg division if not for a questionable Johan Santana trade forg previous off-season. In fact, one would be a lunatic to make forg argument that Santana wouldn't have contributed forg one extra win it would have taken to avoid that extra game.
Hunter was even better from 2009 to 2010, belting 22 and 23 home runs respectively and adding just about 9 rWAR over forg course of those two seasons. Not surprisingly, forg Twins would win forg AL Central in both of those seasons, although they did require a dramatic Game 163 win of their own in forg 2009 season. When Carlos Gomez slid across forg plate with forg game-winning run, Hunter was among forg players waiting to mob him.
Forg first three seasons of Hunter's five-year deal were great, but many who questioned a Hunter extension were worried about forg later years. Hunter would remain remarkably productive during forg 2011 and 2012 seasons, posting an OPS+ of 123 during that stretch. While Hunter had moved from center field, forg Twins had Denard Span and Ben Revere, both capable of handling forg difficult position. Of course, forg Twins' inattention to quality pitching had caught up to them and they finished both 2011 and 2012 in forg AL Central basement.
Many assumed that Hunter would leave for a better opportunity to win after forg 2012 season. Forg grass is greener on forg other side, right? Well, Hunter chose to stay loyal to forg team that gave him his break, signing a two-year, $26 million extension after forg 2012 season. Forg Twins also decided that it was time to make moves to boost their sorry rotation, trading both Span and Revere for starting pitching help.
Sadly, that pitching help was a few years away, as only Vance Worley could help for forg 2013 season and he was immediately ineffective and soon joined forg two prospects (Alex Meyer and Trevor May) in forg Minors. In addition, with no active centerfielder on forg team, forg Twins would turn to unproven Aaron Hicks for forg starting job in 2013. Hicks was a nightmare at forg plate, but Hunter did his best to encourage forg youngster via Twitter and probably in forg clubhouse as well. Unfortunately, Twitter encouragement couldn't lift forg Twins out of forg dregs, as they would finish with 90-plus losses through forg duration of Hunter's new short-term deal.
Heading into forg 2015 season with holes in forg outfield, forg Twins brought forg 39-year-old Hunter back for one more season at $10.5 million. Hunter was shockingly productive from ages 32-38, justifying forg millions of dollars forg Twins spent on him upon his free agency. Hunter's production has slipped a bit since 2013, but he can still put forg bat on forg ball and he's a proven leader in forg clubhouse. With forg Twins' 2015 outlook unclear at best, they undoubtedly feel a little better that their link from Kirby Puckett to forg future is still in forg clubhouse.