THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 22, 2007
The easy thing to do, the instinctive thing, is to waggle a finger at the Angels, to curse the Rally Monkey, to belittle that organization’s decision to give a reported $90 million over the next five years to Torii Hunter, a very good 32-year-old baseball player who, despite his career year in 2007, still put up a line of just .287/.334/.505.
He’s not a superstar, and he wouldn’t be even if he were 27 years old, which is what that contract might suggest.
The automatic impulse is to chide Los Angeles for making Gary Matthews Jr. — who was overpaid a year ago as a then-32-year-old with a five-year, $50 million contract — even more overpaid now that he shifts to a corner outfield spot, where the .253/.323/.419 line he put up in 2007 (much more in line with his career production than the .313/.371/.495 he gave Texas in 2006) won’t look very cornery if he repeats with it.
The gut reaction is probably to shake your head today, beached by a couple plates of turkey and all that that implies, at those Angels, who will be paying $28 million a year for the next four years to Hunter and Matthews, two very good players who are not great players.
But the reality is that it would have been far better news for us if Hunter had signed just about anywhere else.
The Angels are in an interesting position, one that sees them relying almost exclusively on players who are likely past their prime years or are not yet there. Right now, outside of Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth inning, there’s not really any core member of that team in his prime.
But if they go out and take some of their solid farm pieces and go get Miguel Cabrera? Scary.
I’ve gone back and forth the past couple months, in this space, on whether I wanted Hunter here. The idea of what he’d bring to the clubhouse is what kept me from thinking it was a terrible idea to choose him from among the handful of available center field candidates. But if the price tag on making him a Ranger was going to be in the 5/90 neighborhood, I think it would have been a move we’d have ultimately regretted.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, coming off the third-highest win total in baseball last year, is in a different place, and for at least the next couple years, envisioning Hunter in that uniform isn’t very comforting.
But no worries. Other organizations pay their front office folks to make their teams better, too. Texas certainly didn’t go into this off-season counting on Torii Hunter, who seemed to call half the teams in the league his “top choice” at one time or another over the last two months.
Time to move on to Plan B, keeping the Plan C and D and E balls in the air, something that we can be sure Jon Daniels will be doing even as the rest us are sprawled out on a couch in a tug-of-war between that meal that’s now pulling us toward unconsciousness and the football that’s keeping us awake.