DETROIT — Torii Hunter, in the final year of a five-year, $90-million contract, would take a huge pay cut to remain with the Angels and promised that money “will not be an issue” in whether he returns in 2013.
“This is the only team I want to play for,” said Hunter, who turned 37 on Wednesday. “If I’m not in their plans, no hard feelings. I’ve had a great time here. But money will not be the reason I’m not here.”
It could be for the Angels, who have a $154-million payroll, an outfielder (Vernon Wells) with two more years and $42 million left on his contract and an attractive low-cost alternative in Peter Bourjos, who could team with Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo in the outfield for years to come.
But the Angels will probably make every attempt to trade Wells, and Bourjos is their most attractive chip if they want to make an impact deal this summer, so the outfield logjam could thin out.
And Hunter, who makes $18 million this season, won’t dig too deep into the pockets of owner Arte Moreno, who paid the right fielder’s salary while Hunter missed two weeks in May to return home because of the arrest of a son.
“I’d take $10 million,” Hunter said when asked if he’d take that amount, but he declined to say how low he’d go. “I’m 37 — there’s no way I’ll make this salary. Arte will always give you what’s fair. I owe him. If anybody is indebted to anybody, I am to Arte.”
Hunter, who is hitting .272 with 10 homers and 39 runs batted in, is off his usual 23-homer, 85-RBI pace, but he’s still spry for his age. He made a leaping catch at the wall Monday night, and with an 11-0 lead Tuesday, he made a diving catch to rob Miguel Cabrera of a double.
“That’s indicative of what’s made Torii a special player,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “He never takes a pitch off.”
If Hunter doesn’t return to the Angels, he said he’d consider playing for three other teams, the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers or Dodgers. Otherwise, he will retire.
“If I don’t get offers from one of those four,” Hunter said, “then it’s, ‘See ya!’ It’s about winning.”
Scioscia provided a small but important glimpse into his plan for when Wells returns from a thumb injury. He would not say what role Wells, the starting left fielder when he was injured in May, will have, but he did say Wells’ playing time will not come at the expense of All-Star outfielders Trout and Trumbo.
Trout leads the American League with a .353 average and 30 stolen bases. Trumbo has a team-leading 26 homers and 65 RBIs and an AL-leading .630 slugging percentage.
“I think Vernon understands the situation,” Scioscia said. “With the way Mike and Mark are playing, they’re going to be out there every day, and we’ll see how everything else folds in.”
Catcher Chris Iannetta threw to second again Wednesday and will begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment this weekend. … The Angels signed speedy outfielder Trevor Crowe, released by Cleveland, to a minor league deal.