Sid Hartman: Deferred money might be one way to keep Hunter

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 26, 2007 - 10:58 PM

The Pohlads should look into the extension of Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki and see if such a deal could be arranged for the Twins' popular center fielder.

The original announcement out of Seattle reported that outfielder Ichiro Suzuki had signed a five-year contract calling for $90 million, and the reaction here was that Ichiro's large contract killed any chance of the Twins signing Torii Hunter, who will be a free agent at the end of the year.

Ichiro is as popular in Seattle as Hunter is here, maybe more so because of the huge Japanese population there.

But Ichiro's contract was not as lucrative as it seemed, because $5 million of Ichiro's salary each year will be deferred at 5.5 percent interest. That money will be paid to him starting when he retires and extending until at least 2032. So the dollars will be worth a lot less when he gets those deferred checks.

Ichiro received a $5 million signing bonus. He will be paid $12 million per season between 2008 and 2012, with $5 million per year deferred. The money deferred will be paid to him in annual installments every Jan. 30, beginning the season after his retirement.

Would the Twins consider that type of contract with Hunter?

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said: "I don't know about what they've got deferred out there, but there is danger with those because if you get too many of them, you're really passing the buck on the future of the organization. But I guess Seattle, you know, with the ownership there, they felt comfortable doing it, and we've had that in the past. We've done that with a couple of players. It's been some time ago, but we have.

"That's an ownership call, that's not a call for a general manager. It's depending on what kind of length and what kind of dollars and what kind of interest rate is about what it comes down to."

Then Ryan added: "I can assure you that the contract status of a player over here, it's not going to depend on deferred money. Any player, I don't care if it's Torii or any player you're talking about, it wouldn't be deferred money that would hinder or help."

Well, the Pohlads, owners of the Twins, are a $2 billion corporation with 26 companies, and I would guess they are in a position to do a deferred contract with Hunter better than most team ownerships.

Birk makes a difference

It was the NFL draft of 1968. I was there. The expansion Cincinnati Bengals had the second pick in the draft, after the Vikings had taken tackle Ron Yary from USC. When club owner Paul Brown announced he was taking center Bob Johnson of Tennessee rather than a top quarterback, running back or defensive back, there was silence in the crowd.

That's how important one of the real geniuses in football considered the center position. And that is one reason why the Vikings offense will be a lot better this year because Matt Birk -- who missed the 2005 season because of an injury and played not quite up to his Pro Bowl form in 2006 -- will be back to being one of the best centers in football.

"There were some question marks last year, and I played light just because my body felt better and I wasn't sure how it would react to being out there again, but I feel great now," Birk said. "Coach [Brad Childress] told me I was the only offensive player to play every single offensive snap last year, so I think that answers any questions about my health. And now I'm back up to about 320 pounds and feeling strong and feeling good and looking to have a great year."

Speaking of the Vikings' 6-10 record last season, Birk said: "I wouldn't put the blame on the coaches, but just what I'd say is again it's a new system, it's new coaches, it's new techniques of teaching.

"You get a couple new guys in the offensive line with [Steve] Hutchinson and Artis Hicks ... it's just a lot of moving parts there. We just didn't adjust or didn't get used to each other as quickly as we would have liked.

"And I think too, again, that's why this offseason is so good because now we can kind of take a step back, take a deep breath and kind of really go through things slowly, thoroughly and just kind of make sure now that everyone's on the same page. Not that there was mass confusion last year, but it's just kind of nice to have that year under your belt and make mistakes and learn from them."

Jottings

The big mystery as the 2007-08 Gophers men's basketball season approaches is why it appears forward/center Bryce Webster, the top high school recruit in Minnesota before last season, will no longer play college basketball after only his freshman year. Friends say he has lost his heart for the game. Webster reportedly has refused to consult with people he was close to in the past, and the Gophers coaching staff is waiting for his final decision. But it looks as if he won't be back in a Gophers uniform.

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