If Tigers want Torii, Hunter wants to play
DETROIT — If the Tigers want Torii Hunter back for 2015, he wants to play another year. If Detroit doesn’t want him back, then he might have a decision to make on whether he wants to keep playing.
At this point, he does not have an answer.
“If the Tigers want me back, we will work that out hopefully,” Hunter said in a text message. “Other than that, I’m still thinking about my situation.”
That thought process could last another few weeks.
The situation has changed little from a week ago, after the Tigers were swept out of the postseason by the Orioles in the Division Series. That was the first time the 39-year-old Hunter said retirement was a serious consideration, noting he was physically and mentally tired.
Hunter is up for free agency, his two-year contract expiring at season’s end. The Tigers have exclusive rights to try to work out a new deal until five days after the end of the World Series. Hunter can talk with other teams in that five-day period, but cannot exchange salary proposals.
Depending on what Hunter decides, that last part might be moot.
“I don’t know,” Hunter said. “I’m going to let my mind and body heal for about four weeks.”
Hunter plans to spend his fall as a football parent, traveling to watch his kids. Torii Jr. is an emerging redshirt freshman wide receiver at Notre Dame. Another son, Monshadrik “Money” Hunter, is a sophomore defensive back at Arkansas State.
The Tigers front office has been pretty much quiet since season’s end. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski is expected to have his usual end-of-season interview session with reporters at some point next week, a little later than normal but earlier than he hoped this year.
Manager Brad Ausmus raved over the final weeks of the season about Hunter’s impact in the clubhouse and at the plate, where he enjoyed a late-season rejuvenation. He finished with a .286 average, 33 doubles, 17 home runs and 83 RBIs. His run production has almost identical to last year despite fewer plate appearances. His .765 OPS was a 35-point drop from last year but matched his 2011 rate.
The Tigers have a slugging right-field prospect on the way in Steven Moya, who tore up Eastern League pitching at Double-A Erie. He could bypass Triple-A Toledo and contend for a roster spot next spring, but his ascension isn’t guaranteed. Right field could be a landing spot for Rajai Davis if the Tigers acquire a full-time center field, but there’s no clear answer for that. Either Hunter or Davis, both of whom bat right-handed, could form a platoon with the left-handed hitting Moya if the Tigers wanted to ease him in.