Torii Hunter will return for his 19th big league season, according to James Schmehl of MLive.com.
With Baltimore sweeping Detroit on Sunday, Hunter played out his two year, $26 million deal with the Tigers, and is now a free agent. Hunter, still a strong hitter, had two strangely similar (and, strangely, for a 39 year-old, successful) seasons in Detroit:
2013: .304/.334/.465, 17 HR, 84 RBI
2014: .286/.319/.446, 17 HR, 83 RBI
Hunter will likely seek another short deal, and would like to return to the Tigers, according to the tweet. MLB.com's Jason Beck reported Hunter felt fine physically, but was mentally tired from the "grind of a season."
And physically, yes, Hunter still seems capable. His 2014 line of .286/.319/.446 is still above league average and not far off his career numbers (.279/.334/.465). The former defensive whiz is long gone, however, as Hunter now plays right field, and not particularly effectively. FanGraphs' UZR ratings gave Hunter a -18.3, the third worst score of any major league player (behind Dexter Fowler and his own teammate, Nick Castellanos).
While it would probably behoove Hunter to play his career out on a squad that could DH him occasionally, the Tigers seem like a likely destination. No other contending American League teams figure to bring in a soon-to-be 40-year-old defensive liability, and Detroit and Hunter like each other (Beck said manager Brad Ausmus lauded Hunter's clubhouse impact), so expect to see him back in the Motor City. Hunter could even see time at that much-needed DH position if Detroit loses free agent Victor Martinez in the off-season.
It wouldn't be crazy to think that, say, the Orioles might take a two-year flier on someone like Hunter if Nelson Cruz leaves in free agency (the ALCS-bound O's might be attractive to Hunter, who's never won a ring). But the most likely destination for Torii is right where he is, a team that needs him, and, most of all, a team that can't splurge on more pricey free agents, so will likely take the easy route and sign Hunter.