“I was told money was tight,” veteran outfielder Torii Hunter tweeted on December 13, shortly after the Angels signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million free agent contract. “But I guess [Angels owner Arte Moreno] had money hidden under a mattress. Business is business but don’t lie.”
Hunter later claimed that he was joking, but it’s quite obvious that some of those feelings came from a place of true frustration. Here’s Mike DiGiovanna, Angels beat writer for the Los Angeles Times:
Hunter said he was “trying to be funny” in his tweet, adding that the Angels organization “is A-1; I had a blast there.” But he also felt misled. “Just tell me straight up that you don’t want me,” Hunter said, “and I’ll be fine with that.”
Hunter signed a two-year, $26 million contract with the Tigers in mid-November after getting only a one-year, $5 million offer from the Halos. The 37-year-old batted .313/.365/.451 with 16 home runs and 92 RBI in 140 games last season for Anaheim. He is a .277/.335/.466 career hitter in MLB.
The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.
I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.
Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.
Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.
To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.