Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Time to Trade Hunter?

Is it time for Torii Hunter to be traded? I don't know, but it's certainly getting to be a possibility. Hunter will be a free agent after this year, and will command at least $15 mil per season once he hits the open market, probably more like $17.

According to reports, the Twins haven't started talking to him about an extension, which makes me think they are going to wait until after the season. If Hunter goes into this off-season as a free agent, I don't see any way he signs with the Twins once he sees the kind of numbers other teams are offering him.

What sucks, is that the trading deadline is July 31. There is a second deadline in August, but Hunter would have to clear waivers to be eligible to be traded, and I don't see that happening - so it would have to be by July 31, three short weeks away.

The Twins are currently 8 games behind the Tigers for the central division title, and are 5.5 behind Seattle for the Wildcard. They are still in position to make a run at the playoffs, but it's not a lock by any means. I would hate to lose Hunter and get nothing in return.

The other issue is how effective will Hunter be and for how long. The best way I know of to look at this is using PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus. I'm not going to get into all the math here, but it basically looks at past performance, similar players historical performance, and uses mathematical formulas to project probable statistics for a player's career. It's basically the kind of think baseball math nerds like me live for.

Hunter is hitting .301 this year, PECOTA puts him at .272
Hunter has an OBP of .342 and SLG of .558, PECOTA has him at .336 and .468
Hunter is on-pace for 35 homeruns and 47 doubles, while PECOTA predicted him at 19 HR and 25 doubles.
He has a career OPS+ of just 104, but this year is at 136.

All this tells me is that Hunter is having an absolute career year, will get paid for this kind of performance, and then will come back to earth, meaning whoever pays him what is needed to sign him, will end up regretting it big-time. According to Baseballreference.com, his career is most similar right now to Preston Wilson. Would you give Preston Wilson $15 million for four years?

From watching Hunter, you can see that his defensive ability, although still well above average, has begun to drop off. And according to PECOTA, it'll just get worse. Not to mention that in that fourth year of the contract, when he's still making $15 million, his most likely statistics will be .270/.327/.447 - slightly above average (2.0 WARP).

I think it's time to trade Hunter while his value is at an all-time high. His performance is just going to go down, and it's time to cash in before it's too late (see: Moss, Randy and Garnett, Kevin).

ALSO: If you like baseball math, check out Fire Joe Morgan. Freakin' hilarious.

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