Former Angel Hunter still mentoring Trout
DETROIT -- Mike Trout got his contract, but his big payday looms after the 2020 season, when the Angels' superstar center fielder projects to re-enter the free-agent market at age 29. That's plenty of incentive to turn it down a notch, play a little more cautiously, and not bang into walls and dive headfirst and go all out 162 times a year.
And that's the last thing Torii Hunter would ever want to see.
"If you wanna see a guy who's a five-tool player, played the game hard, ran into walls and dived for balls, and he's still around, I'm one of them," the Tigers' right fielder said on Friday afternoon. "I'm still around. I'm about to be 39, I'm still playing at a high level. Don't change your game. All he has to do is keep playing, keep playing hard, do what he's always been doing. You're going to see Trout. He's going to be around. He's going to make $400 million. Of course, it's not about the dollars; he's going to put up great numbers. He's a great kid. That's one guy you invest in."
Trout and Hunter, an Angel from 2008-12 and Trout's biggest mentor as he established himself in the big leagues, still talk about three times a week. Hunter was one of the main guys Trout went to as he was negotiating his six-year, $144.5 million contract, and going back and forth between going year to year or taking the guaranteed money.
Hunter's advice was simple.
"It's not about anybody else," he recalls telling Trout. "It's not about your mom, it's not about your dad, about nobody around you. It's about Mike Trout. If it's good for you and can get you comfortable, no matter what it is, that's what you take. No agent can tell you, 'No, you can get more.' Don't be greedy about it. If it's comfortable, take it."
Hunter, 38 until July 18, batted .286/.352/.462 in his five-year stint with the Angels, averaging 21 homers and 86 RBIs, and more than proving his worth through a five-year, $90 million contract. He signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the Tigers in November 2012 -- partly because the Angels wouldn't come close to guaranteeing that much money -- and has hinted at playing beyond this season.
Hunter still chases that elusive first World Series ring, with his Tigers losing to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series last October.
Something else is more important to him, though.
"At the end of the day, it's about how many relationships you've built in this game, and how many people you've helped," Hunter said. "When I leave, that's what I'm going to remember -- the chemistry, relationships, everything. Not the numbers. Not games. I'm going to remember relationships. And [the relationship with Trout] is one I would never fall out on."