Free agent Hunter meets with Tigers in Detroit
A day after Hunter told MLB Network that he knows who he wants to play for, he spent Tuesday meeting with Tigers officials in Detroit. Sources confirmed Hunter's visit, first reported by FOXSports.com.
The Tigers have an organizational policy of not publicly commenting on free agents.
It's not necessarily a sign of an imminent deal for Hunter, who is believed to be weighing a visit with at least one other club and supposedly didn't go to Detroit with an offer in hand. Still, it surely doesn't hurt Detroit's chances.
Given Hunter's prediction on MLB Network that his courtship wouldn't be drawn out, possibly decided by Thanksgiving, it looks particularly good.
"It's going to be quick," Hunter told MLB Network on Monday. "I'm not going to wait it out. I know who I want to play for."
Hunter arguably has as much knowledge of the Tigers and Detroit as any active player who has never worn a Detroit uniform. Only Paul Konerko has more at-bats at Comerica Park among players who have never been Tigers, according to STATS.
Hunter has played the equivalent of an entire season's home schedule in Detroit, 81 career games, with a .262 (80-for-305) average, seven home runs and 44 RBIs.
Hunter has seen the Tigers move out of the American League's historic cellar to become a perennial contender. In the process, he has watched, advised and admired multiple generations of Detroit outfielders, from Curtis Granderson to Craig Monroe to now Austin Jackson, of whom he spoke glowingly in August.
Manager Jim Leyland and other team decision-makers were already scheduled to be in town for organizational meetings with scouts, so the timing worked out perfectly once talks grew serious with Hunter and his agent, Larry Reynolds.
At least 10 teams are believed to be in the running for Hunter, but his choice could come down to the Tigers and Texas Rangers. While Detroit is a few hours drive from Notre Dame, where his son is set to attend school on a football scholarship, the Rangers would allow Hunter to play in his hometown.
Both teams would give Hunter the chance to contend for a World Series next season.
It's expected to take a multi-year deal to sign Hunter, which would take him through his 39th birthday. The Tigers have a recent history of concerns with outfielders in their late 30s, from Magglio Ordonez to Gary Sheffield to Carlos Guillen.
In Hunter's case, at least, the age concern could be lessened due to his recent history of durability, having played 140 or more games in six of the past seven seasons.
Hunter just finished up a five-year contract with the Angels that he signed right before Thanksgiving Day in 2007. The Tigers have shown a history of moving quickly when they have a chance to sign a player they've targeted, from their free-agent deals with Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit in November '10, to their trades for Edgar Renteria the day after the '07 World Series and Sheffield two weeks after the Tigers lost the '06 Fall Classic.