Torii Hunter’s fate with Angels likely tied to Vernon Wells trade
The Angels and right fielder Torii Hunter have made little progress in contract talks, and the chances of the team extending a $13.3-million “qualifying offer” to the right fielder by Friday’s deadline appear slim, according to a person familiar with negotiations but not authorized to speak publicly about them.
“It’s kind of disappointing, but what are you going to do?” Hunter said by phone from his home in Texas. “If they don’t make an offer by Friday, I guess I’m out of there.”
That’s not necessarily true. The Angels can still sign Hunter if they don’t make a qualifying offer, but they would not have exclusive negotiating rights to the 37-year-old, who hit .313 with 16 home runs and 92 runs batted in last season and carried the team for much of September.
If recent negotiations are any indication, Hunter, whose five-year, $90-million contract has expired but said he’d be willing to take a significant pay cut to remain in Anaheim, isn’t holding out much hope for an offer.
“I haven’t talked to them in a couple of weeks,” said Hunter, considered by teammates and fans as the heart and soul of the Angels for several years. “I don’t know where we stand.”
Though owner Arte Moreno and General Manager Jerry Dipoto have said they’d love to have Hunter back, there appears to be a major obstacle, in the form of $42 million the Angels owe Vernon Wells for the next two years.
If Dipoto can find some way to trade the underachieving Wells -- a tall task considering Wells’ salary and lack of production over the last two years -- it would probably clear enough payroll to re-sign Hunter for one or two years.
“It’s weird, but it’s real, that’s the business side of it that people don’t like,” Hunter said when asked if his fate with the Angels could be tied to a Wells trade.
“Sometimes you have good people you want to keep and there’s something that ties the organization down that doesn’t allow you to keep that player. Nothing against the Angels, but they have a lot of things going on. They have their hands tied right now.”
Hunter, who has never played in a World Series, said in July that if he doesn’t return to the Angels, he would consider playing for only three other teams, the Yankees, Rangers or Dodgers. Otherwise, he would retire.
But after a superb second half that should attract plenty of suitors on the free-agent market, Hunter has expanded his list of potential destinations.
“Once Saturday hits, it’s open season, I’m open to anybody,” Hunter said. “I’ll be my own scout. I’ll see what moves are made and try to get to the team that has the best chance of winning.”
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