Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pierre v. Hunter

I've been waiting eagerly for Juan Pierre to sign, because I wanted very much to compare the deal that Pierre would get with the option that the Twins picked up on Torii Hunter. The reason was simple - there was some thought out in the Twins universe that picking up Hunter's option was sheer folly, and I viewed Pierre as the ultimate gauge of market for center fielders this off-season. Because I've gone into it in exhaustive detail in the past, I'm not going to discuss Hunter's option individually - I'll just reiterate that I think the Twins made the right decision on that front.

So, the Pierre deal - it looks like the Dodgers have decided to spend $44-45 million on Pierre for a 5 year deal. Because the math is simple, I'm going to figure the deal as being for $45 million total, which means Pierre is getting $9 million a year. In comparison, Hunter is getting $12 million for 2007.

Last season, Pierre hit .292, with 3 HR's and 40 RBI's, while stealing 58 bases and scoring 87 runs. He also had what I feel was a spectacular defensive season, making no errors. In comparison, Hunter hit .278 with 31 HR's and 98 RBI's, while stealing 12 bases and scoring 86 runs.

Now, you need to understand a little bit of my philosophy of player value in order to follow where I'm going with this argument, but the nice thing is my philosophy is pretty simple. Essentially, I view the really important things as being RBI's and Runs. Why? Well, because the name of the game is scoring runs, period - without them you cannot win. Steals help teams, sure - but why do they help? Well, because they put runners in scoring position. Players with high steals totals should score more runs. Same with batting average - a higher BA will lead to more RBI's more Runs scored. Homeruns help in both categories. Of course, some allowance must be made for playing on bad teams, etc. This is where homers and steals and such can be useful - if Juan Pierre stole 58 bases for the Yankees, he'd score a lot more than 87 Runs, for example.

So, looking at these numbers, it's quite clear who the more valuable player is. Torii Hunter "produced" 184 runs for the Twins last year. Pierre produced 127. That's a substantial difference, and I would suggest that $3 million/year is a bargain for that kind of increased production.

Now, onto some more "Twins-centered" arguments. First, I don't think the Twins plan on keeping Hunter around 5 more years. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and before you know it Francisco Liriano will all be earning substantial sums of money. As a result, the Twins will need to free up money, and the money being used in 2007 to pay Hunter will be a substantial source of these funds. Had the Twins parted ways with Hunter and gone after Pierre, paying him the same amount the Dodgers just did, they would have been comitting the bulk of that money to Pierre rather than being free to spend it elsewhere. Of course, a replacement center fielder will be needed, and hpefully Denard Span will be able to fill that role. But no matter what happens, the Twins will be able to address that later on.

Also, the Twins don't need a lead-off hitter right now, they need a power-hitter/run producer. Luis Castillo will continue to serve as the leadoff hitter for the Twins next year. Adding another slap hitter to the lineup would do - what? Can you imagine a lineup with Pierre, Castillo, Punto, and Tyner? I can't imagine that three of these guys will (likely) be regulars or semi-regulars in the lineup. Somehow, it works. But - I'm not about to turn yet another precious spot in the lineup to a fourth piranha.

Conclusion? The Pierre signing reinforces my conviction that the Twins did the right thing in picking up Hunter's option. Good alternatives weren't available, and Terry Ryan made a move worthy of the "GM of the Year."


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