November 22, 2012 at 1:00 am

Tony Paul

Tigers' lineup suits Torii Hunter

Outfielder Torii Hunter hit a career-best .313 last season with the Angels — his 16th in the majors. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Detroit -- Torii Hunter is coming off one of the best seasons of his 16-year major league career, and there's no doubt that's because he was put in the best position to succeed.

He batted No. 2 for the Angels, between rookie of the year Mike Trout and slugger Albert Pujols.

He'll be in a similar position with the Tigers, between Austin Jackson and reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera.

Asked how he compares the two scenarios, he launched into an essay about the quality of the Tigers' lineup, on a whole.

"I am looking at that (the Angels), times two," he said last week, after being introduced as the Tigers new right fielder. "I am looking at Austin Jackson at the top of the lineup, then me, then Cabrera. Then I look at Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez is coming back. We aren't talking about guys who just swing the bat and try to hit 30 homers but hit .230. We're talking about guys that sit and be patient and wait for their pitcher and battle and battle and battle, till they get a base hit or a homer or whatever.

"And they're clutch. They're very patient hitters in that lineup. That's what I saw."

That lineup certainly was a big selling point in coming to Detroit, besides what has been his ultimate goal for some time: winning a World Series.

It's a stretch for Hunter, 37, to expect the same results as he had in 2012, when he batted a career-best .313 and posted a .365 on-base percentage, the second-best of his career.

Hunter's numbers were even better in the second spot: .343, with a .376 OBP.

It's like he was given a gift. Hitting behind Trout, perhaps the most exciting player in the majors today, Hunter saw a bevy of fastballs to hit, because pitchers always had to worry about keeping Trout in check. The rookie led the major leagues with 49 stolen bases.

In fact, according to Fangraphs.com, Hunter saw only slow-type pitches — curves and change-ups — only 15.1 percent of the time. Cabrera, by comparison, saw those 17.3 percent of the time.

Pitchers weren't thrilled with the idea of walking Hunter, which would put a man on for Pujols.

The number of good pitches he saw is one reason Hunter's walk total (38) was his fewest since 2005, and his strikeout total (133) was the largest of his career.

In Detroit, Hunter won't have the speed threat in front of him like Trout — Jackson's gone down each year in stolen bases, from 27 to 22 to 12 this past year, despite posting a career-best .377 OBP — so he might just see more off-speed pitches.

That said, it's worth noting the quality of pitching in the AL Central isn't nearly what it is in the AL West. So he still should have his fair share of good looks, especially with the bevy of feared hitters behind him.

"I'm looking at a couple other quality guys that hit and battle and have good at-bats and know the game," Hunter said. "There's some maturity here, man, I can tell you that."

Jays make their move

Give Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos some credit. He has waited until the time was precisely right before making over his roster for a potential push for the postseason.

Anthopoulos saw this past year what we all are seeing: The big dogs in the AL East are vulnerable, specifically the aging Yankees, who vow to continue to cut payroll to under $189 million, and the Red Sox, who had their own Marlins-like fire sale last summer.

Seeing the Orioles come out of nowhere to make the playoffs had to give the Jays hope.

So after the season, team president Paul Beeston gave the go-ahead to spend, spend, spend.

And they did just that in the megadeal with the Marlins, acquiring shortstop Jose Reyes (owed $96 million), starting pitchers Josh Johnson ($13.75M) and Mark Buehrle ($48 million), and later signing outfielder Melky Cabrera ($16M), who has a lot to prove after failing a PED test last summer.

"Assuming health and players play to their abilities, I would see us being a contending team," Anthopoulos told the Toronto Star. "That doesn't mean that we're flawless.

"It doesn't mean there's a lot of things that we can't improve."

The Jays finally have a manager, too — and that ended up being one of their most surprising moves in an offseason full of them. They rehired John Gibbons , who was 305-305 from 2004-08, but also famously had clashes — some even physical — with some of his players.

Marlins cut bait

It's a bit embarrassing what the Marlins have done, essentially swindling millions from taxpayers in South Florida to pay for a new stadium they once insisted would be filled with a contender.

But it shouldn't be a surprise, either.

This is how the Marlins operate. They spend too much, then they cut bait — it's been the case since the late 1990s, when Jim Leyland got a loaded roster and managed it to a World Series championship, only to see almost all the key pieces shipped off in a cost-cutting bonanza the following offseason.

Nobody should be shocked by the actions of owner Jeffrey Loria and Co., who since last summer have dealt away all but one member of the Opening Day starting lineup ( Logan Morrison ).

We really should've seen the writing on the wall last offseason that they were writing bad checks when a) they continued to deny any no-trade clauses (a long-standing policy), and b) they severely back-loaded the deals of Reyes (from $10M to $22M) and Buehrle (from $6M to $19M). Because of that, we might've seen the Blue Jays trade even if the Marlins won it all.

The question now: Are the Marlins done dealing?

About 29 other general managers would desperately love to know, because they have potentially in their possession one of the game's biggest trade commodities: outfielder Giancarlo Stanton , who, by the way, fired off an angry post on Twitter after he learned about the trade.

Anyone who's checking in with the Diamondbacks about Justin Upton should first be placing a call to South Beach to check on Stanton. He's 23, a threat to hit 50 homers some day, and won't be a free agent until 2017. If the Marlins think they struck the mother lode for Reyes, Beuhrle and Co., they might've seen nothing yet.

tpaul@detnews.com

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