MINNEAPOLIS — Torii Hunter is coming back to the place it all began.
Hunter agreed to a one-year, $10.5 million contract to return to the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night, a person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced.
A five-time All-Star outfielder who turns 40 in July, Hunter became a star with the Twins from 1997-07 before signing a five-year, $90 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. He then signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the Detroit Tigers.
In his second tour with the Twins, Hunter will be heavily relied upon to be the kind of hard-driving veteran a young clubhouse needs to set an example. The Twins have lost at least 92 games in each of the last four seasons, and the lack of leadership was a big concern for the front office.
During his first run with the Twins, Hunter was a vocal pillar in the clubhouse, and the team adopted his fiery mentality. He challenged teammates when he thought they were not competing, served as a team spokesman when results were poor and, most importantly, won seven of his nine Gold Gloves while providing consistent production in the middle of the Twins order.
His agreement was first reported by USA Today.
“It will be a honor to play alongside my hero growing up,” Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks tweeted.
Hunter isn’t the same defensive dynamo he was when he left for the big payday with the Angels, but his reputation as a reliable hitter hasn’t faded. Last year he hit .286 with 17 homers and 83 RBIs for the Tigers, numbers comparable to the two seasons before then, as well.
He will be slotted into the everyday lineup as a right fielder and perhaps an occasional designated hitter, providing a bridge to a group of highly anticipated prospects that include prized center fielder Byron Buxton, considered by many in the organization to be the next Hunter.
Thumbnail photo via Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports Images