It isn't just me

Those of you who think I'm a Pollyanna because I'm happy that the Angels, not the Rangers, signed Hunter?  

It ain't just me.

Rob at the 6-4-2 blog (an Angels blog) is horrified:

I went to bed (central time) without checking the news, and here's what I get: the Angels have signed Torii Hunter for $90M/5 years? (Also at MLB.com.)  Tony Reagins should have the keys to the franchise taken away from him for that.

* * *

Despite his type A ranking by Elias, Hunter's value to the team is rather dubious thanks to his age, multiplied by having a career year in a contract year. PECOTA projected him as a 45 VORP player, and he came in a bit below that at 39.2. Now, four wins is nothing to sneeze at, but he marks the kind of player the Angels really shouldn't be chasing; they need a Hall of Fame caliber bat, and Hunter simply isn't that. As a fix for the outfield, it reaches meh levels, with the usual caveats that Hunter's comps were either out of baseball or ineffective by the time this deal will be over, when Hunter is 36.

For info on Hunter's comps, you can click here.

Rob also echoes my take on how well Hunter fits in:

I chatted briefly with Rich Lederer yesterday, who said Hunter ought to fit right in with the Angels: low OBP, hacks at everything, aging

6-4-2 also links to this piece at the L.A. Times, which is all agush over GMJ:

Matthews is one of baseball's best center fielders, known for his ability to make highlight-reel plays, but he is a shade below Hunter, a seven-time Gold Glove Award winner who agreed to terms on a five-year, $90-million contract with the Angels on Wednesday night.

* * *

Matthews emerged as a superb defensive center fielder in Texas from 2004 to 2006, but he has also spent considerable time during his eight-year career in right field (214 games) and left field (129 games). He has played 650 games in center.

So GMJ is one of the best centerfielders in the game, but is a shade below Torii Hunter?  Where, one wonders, would the author think GMJ and Hunter compare to truly elite defensive centerfielders like Coco Crisp, Curtis Granderson, Ichiro, Felix Pie, Carlos Beltran, Willy Taveras...

Dave Cameron at U.S.S. Mariner is also pleased...

I called Torii Hunter a free agent landmine, and so it's with some joy that I announce that the Angels have signed him to a 5 year, $90 million contract. As is the deal with most free agent contracts, this is just way too much money for a guy who isn't as good as his reputation. The Angels will now shift Gary Matthews Jr to a corner OF spot, and Vlad/Garret Anderson will rotate between the other corner OF spots and DH.

Interested in the view of someone who isn't the fan of an A.L. West team?  Check out Keith Law...

Hunter is no bargain at $18 million per season, and he's likely to end up a fourth outfielder himself before the contract is up. Hunter has a great defensive reputation because he makes highlight catches and has a clear skill for robbing opposing hitters of home runs. However, those catches are rare, and his overall defense in center is slightly above-average; it's only going to get worse as he gets older, and he'll be 35 by year four of this contract, at which point he may have to move to an outfield corner.

The bigger problem with Hunter and this deal, however, is his bat. Hunter has never topped a .340 OBP, so he'll fit right into the Angels' lineup, but not in a good way. The Angels are one of the least patient teams in baseball, finishing second-to-last in the AL in pitches seen per plate appearance. Reggie Willits, whose playing time is probably hurt the most by this deal, was the only Angel to draw 60 unintentional walks in 2007, and in fact led the American League in P/PA at 4.44, more than a full pitch above Hunter's 3.37 figure. If Reagins can't foist Matthews' albatross contract on another club, Willits would seem to be headed out of town himself. Hunter does give the Angels another power bat, which they needed in 2007, but at a cost of adding another no-like-breaking-ball hacker to their lineup. At the same time they possibly deleted one of their few hitters who could get on base and make the opposing pitcher work.

Hunter's an above-average bat for center right now because he has good power (probably a 25-homer bat in Anaheim, with 30-40 doubles) and hits .270-.280 in most years. He's already leaving the typical hitter's peak years, however, and his abilities in both departments will decline over the life of the contract. By the contract's third or fourth year, he'll be a .260/.310/.440 hitter, which is a fourth outfielder's line on a contending club, and won't be worth $18 million a year even if player salaries continue increasing.

The Angels also gave up their first-round pick (27th overall) to sign Hunter, which will leave them without a first-rounder for the third time in four drafts. The Angels signed just one player in the top 140 picks in the 2007 draft, and their farm system, long ranked as one of the best in baseball, is slipping due both to promotions and some disappointments. Unless they are willing to take some high-ticket players who fall due to their bonus demands, the loss of these high picks will continue to hurt them.

Oh, and one more thought from Law:

The Rangers also lucked out a bit, since they're not contending in 2008 and should be focused on building the best club for 2010, by which point Hunter would be part of the problem, not the solution.
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