To Torii or Not to Torii? That (Seems to Be) The Question

After a couple of days of posting rest after the deadline, it’s time to start watching our Young Rangers team develop, refocusing on Tom Hicks’ failed ownership and looking toward the future.

As T.R. Sullivan posted earlier this week, “The number one question surrounding the Rangers for 2008 is if Torii Hunter will be their centerfielder. That’s No. 1.”

So let’s start there.

I’ve thought for a while, that the Rangers should sign Torii in the off-season. Other than pitching, a near consistent need of the Rangers’ has been a CF who can play defense and contribute offensively. According to Wikipedia, “ESPN called Hunter a “daily web gem,” referring to ESPN’s nightly highlight reel. He has won six consecutive Gold Glove Awards for his defensive prowess.” And his production has been consistently around a .270avg/.800 ops (with a bit of a power surge over that in the past two seasons). Plus, he lives in The Colony and is a decent guy.

But now, I’m not so sure.

I don’t like signing guys after they have career years, which is what Torii seems to be having (although after a hot start in April-May, he’s actually been hitting under his career averages).

Second, he’s just old enough to be concerned about whether he’ll be a real contributor when the Rangers window for contention (’09-’12) is open. It can be done (remember that Lofton guy who just left here). But it’s rare for a guy to perform at or above career numbers at 35+ (Torri turns 35 in 2010).

Third, the Rangers are missing a long-term leadoff hitter, and that could also be addressed with a CF free agent. Hunter is more a fit in the middle of the order.

Fourth, with Teixeira gone, the Rangers need a clean-up hitter or better protection for Botts if he proves he can hit cleanup. I don’t think Torri is the answer there.

Fifth, there are a lot of CF free agents this winter, including Corey Patterson, who is 4 years younger, would cost less, plays Gold Glove- caliber D, (UPDATE: suggesting Patterson could lead off was a big oversight on my part. He could be a contributor, but definitely not a lead-off hitter.) could lead-off and steals bases like crazy (which would allegedly fit Washington’s style), and is Lefty whose numbers (which are just a notch under Torii’s) would almost certainly get a boost in the Ballpark and with Rudy Jaramillo’s tuteledge. Plus, we just picked up a promising CF in Left-handed hitting 27-yo David Murphy who should be a September call-up.

So while I’m not ready to say signing Torri would be a mistake. I am backing off my previous position that he should definitely be a Ranger next season and taking a wait-and-see approach.

Besides, I agree with the T.R.’s suggestion that the top question about the Rangers, “really should be … if the Rangers will have the discipline and patience to follow through with what they’ve started…” and see how their young talent can develop. (At least I agree with that on the offensive side of the equation – pitching, I’m not so sure).


9 responses to “To Torii or Not to Torii? That (Seems to Be) The Question

  1. sportsconversation

    You make very good points, but I still think Torri Hunter would be a perfect fit in Texas. Without Lofton or Tex, and next to no probablyity ytou bring back Sosa, next year this team will lack the veteran leadership. Who better than Hunter to step in and fill that role?

  2. rangersorrobbers

    Michael Young is the veteran leader in the Rangers clubhouse, along with Millwood. Not that another veteran or two wouldn’t help the youngins.

  3. I too have my doubts about Torii Hunter. But don’t you remember when the Tigers signed Pudge to a multi-year deal? Everyone laughed at them . But anyway, who knows what might happen?

    Now. On to Corey Patterson. He’s a decent player. But he strikes out too much to lead off. That’s been the knock on him all of his career. He’s got a lifetime OBP of .298. He’s struck out in 23.5% of his ABs. That’s basically 1 K per game (even more if he leads off). He’s got a walk rate of 5.0%. That means that he has drawn only 1 walk in every 4 games (given 5 ABs per game). The guy is very athletic and talented. Good enough for our ample centerfield. A speedier Gary Matthews but way less adept at drawing walks and getting on base (GMJ’s career BA is 6 points higher and we know he’s only had one good year). More of a bottom-of-the-order type hitter.

  4. Corey Patterson can’t lead off. A guy that who’s batting average is below league average every year & walks only once in every 20 AB’s should NEVER lead off. He’s an 8th hitter at best.

    Torii will probably go for much more than the Rangers will spend. We’ll probably hear about the Rangers giving him some great offer – like $50 mill over 4 years – and have people here think he may sign, only to have him sign for $95 mill over 5 years somewhere else.

    The Rangers are three GOOD starting pitchers from competing – no matter who’s in center.

  5. TradeTexFoundation

    I have one phrase for Corey Patterson
    I once great prospect to lead off, who tries to hit homeruns every AB….

  6. One CF and only one from this FA class really interests me…Aaron Rowand.

    Torii is getting older, he’s posting career numbers offensively, but I just don’t think he’ll maintain a high level of play for the duration of the contract he’ll receive. It’d be great at first, but when his legs start to wear down and he slows down defensively, we’d be stuck with another bad contract for Hicks to point to for his payroll problems. I wouldn’t be opposed to Hunter, but I think there’s better options…

    I just flat out don’t want Andruw Jones. Overrated, he’s already declining at an insane pace, and he’ll still get huge dollars in FA. He doesn’t interest me at all.

    Corey Patterson would be OK, but I wouldn’t want him leading off. He’s a good fit for Washington’s style offense, but again, I think there’s better options…

    Rowand is a guy that has shown he can hang around that .300 mark (even higher this year, but again it’s a contract year), he’s walking alot more and seeing a bunch more pitches, leading to more walks and fewer Ks…He’s a very solid defensive outfielder. He’ll be 30 at year’s end, but he also seems to have more left in the tank than Hunter or Jones…

  7. Very interesting post rangersorrobbers. I was of the opinion Torri is The Guy (meaning the guy that will save our outfield)… you made some interesting points, but I think Torri is the best fit right now – he might be the best defensive CF in baseball right now, with the exception of Carlos Beltran, and he can hit for average, power, and he can run decently. Still the best fit for now, though maybe not The Guy. He even lives near Dallas. But it’s a good question you raised about whether he is the best fit for the future. He does seem to have that Kenny Lofton or Jim Edmonds type durability (he was hurt last year, and has come back full strength again this year) but 35 in 2010 is pretty old…
    Overall, I still think he’s the guy we should go after. At the very least, he has a great resume, and if in the future, we need to trade him, he’s the guy we could get the most for.

    About Corey Patterson – leadoff? No way. Even batting second would be a stretch. We do need a leadoff hitter, but in thinking of Corey Patterson as leadoff hitter, ask yourself this: would you let Whiffy Wilkerson lead off? Corey’s speed could be useful, particularly to Ron Wash, but we need a top-to-mid order guy… not another bottom of the lineup hitter. We have too many of those already.

    Andruw Jones: after such a crappy year as he’s had, he’ll be looking for redemption next year – and with such a bad season in his contract year, we might be able to sign him at a reasonable price – but personally, I don’t want to see Andruw in Arlington. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take anybody who can come here and hit 35 HR’s – but Andruw looks to be approaching the twilight of his career.

    Aaron Rowand is a guy I like. My second favorite baseball team would probably be the Phillies (even though I loathe the National League) and I’ve watching him play quite a bit. He’d be a good middle of the order guy – he’s like a mini-Torri Hunter without all the bells, whistles and hype. And while I don’t think he’d be the asset Torri Hunter would be, he would be my second choice to sign in the off-season.

    I’ve also heard rumors of Eric Byrnes coming to Texas to play CF next year. Hopefully, they’re not true – first of all, he’s not a Center Fielder, and second of all, in my opinion, he’s an ass*****. But he has a huge asking price, so hopefully, the Rangers will show some sense and stay the heck away from him.

    Regardless of who it is, I do think the Rangers need to sign a CF in the off-season this year. David Murphy is a good defensive outfeilder, but he doesn’t seem to have much pop in his bat from the reports I’ve read on him. I don’t think he’s future full-time CF material, though I think he’s going to be an asset next year to the Rangers as a good utility outfeilder, and Left-handed backup CF. But for the future, it may not matter. By the time 2010 rolls around, and we’re ready to contend, the good OF prospects we already have in the farm system, like John Mayberry or Brandon Boggs, should be in AAA, getting ready to make the jump to The Show. In the far into the future, finding a good CF shouldn’t be a problem. But for the next 2-3 years, we need to sign somebody, ’cause while Byrdman makes a dang good corner OF, I don’t think he’s got the glove to be a full-time CF. Of course, we’ll see how he does over the next couple months. He could prove me wrong. He certainly has proved most of his critics wrong this year.

  8. rangersorrobbers

    Note the Update to the original post – oops.

    Overall, I’m just still not sure what the Rangers should do in CF. Think we need to wait and see.

  9. Eric Byrnes is hitting .303/.365/.497 this year. His career numbers are .268/.329/.457. He’s certainly having a career year but it’s not of the Gary Matthews type. Byrnes had some success coming into this season. Unfortunately, he’s a corner OF and we have plenty of those here.

    Andruw Jones “might” be had for a reasonable price. There’s always the chance that he might fire his agent ($cott Bora$) and go crazy about the prospect of playing in Texas.

    This is the list of “true” free agent CF (“true” meaning more games played at CF than any other position) that will probably be available in the offseason:
    Torii Hunter
    Mike Cameron
    Darin Erstad (White Sox hold team option)
    Andruw Jones
    Kenny Lofton
    Corey Patterson
    Aaron Rowand.

    My top 2 are Hunter and Rowand. Then Jones, Cameron (on a 2-year deal), and Patterson. I can hardly see the others coming to Texas and/or playing CF next year.

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