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Tigers, Torii prepared to part ways

Dombrowski indicates re-signing of Martinez means end of Hunter's tenure
MLB.com

DETROIT -- On the day the Tigers officially welcomed back Victor Martinez, they effectively said farewell to Torii Hunter.

"I don't think we'll re-sign Torii," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Friday, "and I called him today and let him know that."

DETROIT -- On the day the Tigers officially welcomed back Victor Martinez, they effectively said farewell to Torii Hunter.

"I don't think we'll re-sign Torii," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Friday, "and I called him today and let him know that."

Though Dombrowski didn't completely rule out the possibility, the statement essentially closes Hunter's Tigers tenure after two seasons.

Hunter was one of two regulars who hit free agency this fall after Detroit fell to the Orioles in the American League Division Series. While Hunter said at season's end that he was considering retirement, he amended that soon after, saying he was interested in re-signing if the Tigers wanted him.

Publicly, the team never made its intentions clear. Hunter was told that the Tigers' first priority was to re-sign Martinez. Once that happened, though, it essentially closed the door on Hunter's future in Detroit.

"If we re-signed Victor," Dombrowski said, "it would most likely preclude us from going strongly after Torii."

Detroit's trade for center fielder Anthony Gose further dampened the possibility of a return. With Gose likely taking the majority of starts in center field, Rajai Davis is expected to shift over to right field at least some of the time.

Add in left-handed-hitting youngster Tyler Collins and slugging prospect Steven Moya, and the Tigers had options in right field.

Dombrowski said he discussed the situation with Hunter's agent, Larry Reynolds, early in the week while in Arizona for the General Managers Meetings.

"Torii wants to play, for sure," Dombrowski said he was told. "He wants to go out there and play basically on an everyday basis if he can. He thinks he might even be able to play for a couple years. So I said, 'Well, he's probably not going to fit, then, at this point.' I wanted to wait until we got this deal done, which we did."

Once the deal became official Friday, Dombrowski said he called Hunter personally.

"I thanked him for everything," Dombrowski said. "We absolutely love him. If something changes where we make some changes for one reason or another that we're not anticipating, we would still be open. It's just really probably not much of a fit right now.

"I thanked him and wished him well. We had a great conversation."

Hunter hit 17 home runs and 83 RBIs in 142 games with the Tigers in 2014. From a production standpoint, it was nearly identical to his previous season in Detroit, when he hit 37 doubles, 17 homers and 84 RBIs. His batting average fell from .304 to .286, while his OPS dropped from .800 to .765.

Looking for his first trip to the World Series, Hunter joined the Tigers shortly after the 2012 season just after Detroit was swept out of the Fall Classic. He helped the Tigers win back-to-back division titles, and his tumbling effort over the short right-field fence at Fenway Park while trying to chase down David Ortiz's game-tying grand slam in Game 2 became the enduring image of the 2013 AL Championship Series.

Hunter had a pair of running catches in the gap in right-center field during the Tigers' division race this past September, helping the Tigers keep their AL Central supremacy. However, there was no such drama in the postseason, as the Orioles swept the Tigers in the ALDS.

Hunter, who turns 40 years old next July, should have no trouble finding another chance with a contender if he wants. As many as 10 teams have reportedly expressed interest, including his former team in Minnesota and the reigning AL champion Royals.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

 

Detroit Tigers, Torii Hunter