This is not about protecting Vladimir Guerreor and his bat in the lineup. This is about allowing Vlad to end the wear and tear of being a right fielder and rest himself all season as Designated Hitter, to concentrate on what he does best: batting.
Basically, Arte Moreno is a billionaire who sells out more than half of the season at home and he just raised my seat prices, so the large sum of money paid to Torii Hunter is of no import in the discussion. The dollar is sinking and inflation is rising and $18 million might look like $98 million in the 5th year of this deal.
Bottom Line: The signing of Torii Hunter is good for the Angels on many accounts.
Hunter is a competent fielder - some techie measurements say he is not as great as his reputation, but nobody from the fanboys to the RangeFactor accountants disputes that he is a good centerfielder.
Lots of doubles, 28 HR would have led the 2007 Angels. Extreme durability should be augmented by Anaheim's natural grass. Hunter Batted 5th/6th most of the time for the Anemic twins and slugged .505 on a team with a collective .391 SLG%.
Our most important player is Vlad, so the question has to be asked: what does this mean for Vlad (and thus the Angels). Well, what DOES this mean for Vlad and the Angels? Vlad is slowly falling apart. He wears out by season's end. As great as he is, one can notice a slow decline and imagine it speeding up. While his career numbers compare well with Willie Mays, they also have similarities to Juan Gonzalez - and the name "Juan Gone" means a lot more now than it did at the turn of the century.
If we are to re-sign Vlad two offseasons from now, if there is a chance he will retire as an Angel after, say, the 2015 season (just shy of his 40th birthday), the quicker he becomes the full-time Designated Hitter, the better for him, for the team, and for us the fans. An outfield of Garret, Torri and Gary is a damn good outfield. We can save Vlad's knees and challenge Garret to stay healthy as a fielder in order to earn his 2009 option.
If Vlad is full-time DH, does the lack of wear and tear add to his (already superhuman) numbers? If all this Torii Hunter signing does is simply slow Vlad's perceptible decline from being a steeper cascade down, than the Torii Hunter contract functions as an insurance policy for our best player to remain at his optimum offensive production.
Basically, the Angels overpay in the outfield for two more seasons (GA's club option is thru '09 and Matthews' no trade clause runs thru then as well) BUT they underpay in the infield. Casey Kotchman is the first of the current/projected infielders to be arbitration eligible - and guess when - yep, after the 2009 season!
The infield underpayment is severe:
Kotchman/Morales at 1B, Kendrick at 2B, Brandon Wood at 3B, Aybar/Izturis at SS, Napoli/Mathis at C all at league minimum for two more seasons and most at league minimum for three or more seasons.
For you young chemists, Hunter has a PhD in Clubhouse Chemistry.
Does Hunter have a no-trade clause, too? If not then the only problem is the loss of a First-round Pick, but again, that saves us signing bonus money and the difference between the 26th pick and the 100th pick is usually not as big as the difference between the 5th pick and the 26th.