COMMENTARY | The New York Daily News reported on Thursday, Nov. 1 that the New York Yankees could target free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter when the annual frenzy for players with expired contracts begins Saturday, Nov. 3.
The Los Angeles Angels, Hunter's previous team, are not expected to offer Hunter a qualifying offer by the deadline to do so, which is midnight on Friday, Nov. 2, according to the Daily News report.
Hunter is a four-time All-Star and won nine straight Gold Gloves from 2001-09. He's coming off a 2012 season for the Angels where he hit .313/.365/.451 with 16 home runs and 92 RBIs.
According to a Daily News source, the Angels are reluctant to pony up the $13.3 million qualifying offer for 2013 because the organization fears Hunter would take the deal.
He just played the final year of a five-year, $90-million contract he signed with the Angels as a free agent after the 2007 season.
Hunter has had a terrific 16-year career with the Angels and Minnesota Twins. He's a .277/.335/.466 lifetime hitter and will enter the 2013 season just three home runs shy of 300 for his career. He's scored 1,068 runs and driven in 1,143.
So what's the downside?
He's still a productive player. But the Yankees don't need to add another aging star. This is a team that desperately needs to get younger, not older.
New York is eyeing Hunter to replace Nick Swisher in right field. Swisher just finished a four-year run in the Bronx, and he was a solid, consistent regular-season performer in pinstripes. Swisher hit .272/.364/.473 with 24 homers and 93 RBIs in 2012 and over his four years with the Yankees averaged 26 home runs and 87 RBIs a season while hitting .268/.367/.483.
It was in the postseason where Swisher came up short -- woefully short. Swisher was 5-for-30 (.167) in the 2012 playoffs with no homers and two RBIs. But at least he struck out 10 times in 34 plate appearances, so he had that going for him.
His lifetime .169 batting average is the lowest in postseason history for players with more than 50 at-bats. In August, Yahoo! Sports blogger Kevin Kaduk blogged that Swisher has almost no chance of getting the type of contract he wants, reported to be a deal similar to that outfielder Jayson Werth received from the Washington Nationals as a free agent following the 2010 season. Werth got seven years and $126 million from the Nationals after playing out his contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Swisher will be 32 later this month, more than five years younger than Hunter.
The Yankees were the oldest team in the baseball in 2012 with an average age of 33. Getting five years older in right field doesn't help address that problem.
Injured closer Mariano Rivera was 42 last season. Outfielder-designated hitter Raul Ibanez and pitcher Andy Pettitte were 40. Late-season bullpen pickup Derek Lowe was 39. Shortstop Derek Jeter and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki were 38. Pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was 37. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez was 36. Pitcher Freddy Garcia and outfielder Andruw Jones? Try 35 each.
Among the everyday players, only Cano and Jeter are products of the farm system. On the mound, the home-grown players include starters Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova and relievers Rivera, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and David Phelps.
In fairness, Pettitte was also a product of the Yankee farm system but later left the organization to sign with the Houston Astros before returning as a free agent in 2007, retiring for a year in 2011, and coming back last year.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has been vocal about his desire to cut the team's payroll to $189 million by 2014. The payroll for 2012 was a league-high $222 million.
If the Yankees are going to meet the goal of cutting payroll, there are two ways to do it: signing aging veterans to short-term, bargain-basement deals and coping with the inevitable injuries and other lack of availability that go with them, or doing what the organization did in the early 1990s and commit to reinvigorating the farm system.
The last time the Yankees really committed resources to player development, the farm system produced a core of players in Bernie Williams, Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, and Jorge Posada that led the team to four World Series titles in five years from 1996-2000.
But for the last decade, general manager Brian Cashman has treated the minor leagues as nothing more than a department store for trade bait.
According to prosportstransactions.com, the list of young players traded over the last decade is staggering. The list includes:
* Nick Johnson, traded in 2003 to the Montreal Expos.
* Joaquin Arias, traded in 2004 to the Texas Rangers.
* Juan Miranda, 2010 trade with the Diamondbacks.
The Yankees can get younger and be successful down the road. But it takes an organization-wide commitment to do that, just as it did 20 years ago.
Phil Watson is a longtime New York Yankee fan who was a writer and editor for several daily newspapers for more than 20 years.