Free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter was in Detroit on Tuesday to meet with Tigers officials, major league sources told FOXSports.com. The team — like Hunter — is desperately trying to win the World Series.
The Tigers won the American League this year with a convincing sweep of the New York Yankees but lost to the San Francisco Giants in similar fashion, showing a glaring vulnerability to left-handed pitching. Hunter could address that weakness, after totaling an .868 OPS against lefties with the Angels this season.
The Tigers are prepared to make Hunter a multiyear offer, sources say, and may have done so already. Hunter is said to be seriously considering the Tigers, but there is a chance the Texas Rangers could woo him away with the chance to play close to his home in Prosper, Texas. The Rangers are in the market for outfielders and have interest in acquiring Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks via trade.
Hunter, 37, proved this season that he’s still capable of handling right field on an everyday basis. He would play there in Detroit, alongside elite defender Austin Jackson in center field and a left fielder to be determined (probably Avisail Garcia, Andy Dirks, or Brennan Boesch).
Hunter has earned more than $130 million in his career, according to Baseball-Reference.com, meaning the elusive World Series ring is a greater priority than ever. He has a .305 batting average in 34 postseason games with the Twins and Angels but has yet to play in the Fall Classic.
Hunter is known as a vocal clubhouse leader — the sort of presence the Tigers lacked this season without the injured Victor Martinez, who is expected to return in 2013. In an interview on MLB Network before he was announced as the AL Rookie of the Year Monday, Angels outfielder Mike Trout singled out Hunter as the veteran whose wisdom he most often sought.
At one point, it was assumed that Hunter preferred to play in the Los Angeles market or closer to his home in the Dallas area. But he’s familiar with the AL Central, having begun his career with the Twins and nearly signing with the Kansas City Royals five years ago.
Hunter also has incentive to play in the Midwest, now that his son, Torii Jr., has committed to play football at Notre Dame. Detroit is approximately a 3-1/2-hour drive away from South Bend, Ind.