Free agent outfielder Torii Hunter has agreed to a $26 million US, two-year deal with Detroit, giving the Tigers a capable corner outfielder coming off an impressive season at age 37.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity Wednesday because no announcement had been made, confirmed the deal and said Hunter has a physical scheduled for Friday. Hunter hit a career-best .313 last season for the Los Angeles Angels with 16 home runs and 92 RBIs.
Acquiring a corner outfielder was a major off-season priority for Detroit, and Hunter won nine consecutive Gold Gloves from 2001-09 before gradually switching from centre field to right. With the exception of Austin Jackson in centre field, the Tigers were largely unimpressive defensively last season.
Detroit went into 2012 hoping for solid production from outfielders like Brennan Boesch and Ryan Raburn, but by the time the post-season started, the Tigers were primarily using Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry and Avisail Garcia alongside Jackson. Dirks had a fine season, hitting .322, but Hunter has a longer track record.
Hunter is also a .289 career hitter against left-handers. The Tigers hit a pedestrian .253 versus southpaws in 2012.
Detroit is chasing its first World Series title since 1984. The Tigers were swept by San Francisco in this year's series.
After back-to-back AL Central titles, Detroit is aggressively trying to win now. Ace Justin Verlander and sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are all in their prime, and the Tigers traded top pitching prospect Jacob Turner to the Miami Marlins in the middle of the season for right-hander Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante.
Detroit seems like a sensible fit all along for an older player like Hunter, who follows his five-year tenure with Los Angeles by reaching a shorter deal with the Tigers. Detroit is not required to give up compensation for Hunter.
Sanchez is now a free agent, and the Tigers have said they'd like to take a shot at retaining him. Detroit is also ready to welcome back Victor Martinez, who will replace Delmon Young at designated hitter after missing the whole 2012 season with a knee injury.
New closer for Tigers?
There are still a few other questions for the Tigers, who are unlikely to bring back closer Jose Valverde. General manager Dave Dombrowski indicated Detroit has some in-house candidates for that role, but the off-season is young.
Although Hunter is now off the market, some other top free agent outfielders remain for other teams to shop for, such as Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher.
Hunter's arrival means Boesch, Garcia or Berry could be an odd man out on Detroit's opening day roster in 2013. Boesch has hit 42 home runs in three seasons with the Tigers, but his average dipped to a career-low .240 in 2012. Berry came from off the radar this year as a 27-year-old rookie and stole 21 bases without being caught. The 21-year-old Garcia hit .319 in 47 at-bats, but he may be a candidate for more seasoning in the minors.