Friday, November 23, 2007

Torii Hunter and the Centerfield Market

Torii Hunter was signed to a 5-year $90 million contract yesterday that has sent shock waves through the market for centerfielders.
The Angels had agreed to a $50 million, five-year deal with [Gary] Matthews last November, so Hunter was surprised they were even interested in him.

"They shocked me. I didn't think they needed a center fielder," Hunter said. "They shocked the world."
The Hunter signing has a number of implications and ramifications.

First - this signing will make Aaron Rowand a very rich man. There are a number of GM's out there who have cash on hand and who need to make a splash in the offseason to justify their job to the fans. I would look for Rowand to get some "Hunter-like" offers from the White Sox, Dodgers and Phillies.

Second - the team who misses out on Rowand may be forced into overpaying for Andruw Jones (who is surprisingly 3rd on the centerfielder wish list for most teams). I have to wonder if the Braves are nervous about offering Jones arbitration because it may become a Greg Maddux-like situation from a couple of years ago where they thought Maddux was leaving as a free agent but when he didn't get any big multi-year offers he ended up taking the arbitration from the Braves and breaking their piggy bank (forcing them to trade Kevin Millwod to the Phillies in a salary dump). It should be recalled that Scott Boras was Maddux's agent and is also Andruw Jones' agent. Boras must be praying that the Phillies or Dodgers sign Rowand because I have to think that Kenny Williams and the White Sox are Boras' big chance to get Jones a mega contract.

I don't think the Dodgers or Phillies will be players for Andruw Jones because he has historically done awful at Dodger Stadium (.735 OPS in 36 games) and at Citizen's Bank Park (.638 OPS in 35 games).

Third - once Rowand lands somewhere - teams that still need a centerfielder will be knocking on the Red Sox door to make a deal for Coco Crisp. Besides the teams mentioned above - you will also have the Rangers, Twins and a couple other teams. The Red Sox had to give up a top prospect (Andy Marte) to get Coco - so I'd look for them to get one back in return.

Forth - the Angels have been very active this offseason (acquiring Jon Garland and now signing Hunter) and I don't think they are done. Many people put them as the front-runners for Miguel Cabrera (or Miguel Tejada as a Plan B). The Angels activity already will send some teams into a tizzy - for instance I would not be surprised to see the Dodgers make a very big push on Aaron Rowand to get the back pages back from their metropolitan rivals the Angels. Also - with the "win it now" approach by the Angels many have speculated will put the A's into a rebuilding and trading mode. I don't see that happening. If the A's can keep Rich Harden, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton healthy then they can compete with anyone. The A's have a reasonable payroll and their key players are signed at reasonable terms. I don't see them being sellers.

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