Patrick Reusse, June 20: Time to trade Garnett, Hunter

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 25, 2007 - 5:37 PM

It would be in their teams' best interests, but that doesn't mean the Timberwolves or Twins will act.

The Timberwolves have Kevin Garnett and are a franchise without hope. The Twins have Torii Hunter and are no better than the seventh-best team in the American League.

Kevin McHale and Terry Ryan are general managers who should face reality and make trades as soon as possible, yet both can be expected to sit on their thumbs -- McHale because of stubbornness and Ryan because of timidity.

Garnett turned 31 in May. He has gone from an MVP three seasons ago to a player no longer among the NBA's top 10. With Garnett as the face of the franchise, the Wolves have plummeted in the standings, in ticket sales and in television ratings.

A Garnett trade would not improve the crowds or the television audience, but such a trade would result in a young roster that could be offered to the public as hope for the next decade.

The trade bandied about by espn.com's Chad Ford has Garnett going to Boston for four players -- Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair -- and the No. 5 overall selection.

Obviously, this is way too optimistic on the ransom the Wolves could obtain for Garnett. Plus: The idea of playing with Paul Pierce in the easier Eastern Conference might appeal to KG, but there's no way he's going to embrace being reunited with Wally Szczerbiak in Boston.

The Wolves would prefer Ratliff because he will earn $11.7 million next season and then his contract expires. The Celtics would want to move Szczerbiak, who has bad feet, ankles and $25 million due over the next two years.

Yet, if you could get the talented Green, the capable Jefferson and the No. 5, McHale would have to be worse at his job than Wolves' followers already think is the case not to also take the troubled Telfair and the oft-hobbled Szczerbiak.

The Boston trade, unfortunately, figures to be more ESPN speculation than fact. If Garnett does get traded, the logical location remains the Los Angeles Lakers. For the Lakers, that would shut up Kobe Bryant and make tickets inside the Staples Center almost as tough to get as they were when Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were together.

This would require McHale pushing Indiana out of the way in the Pacers attempt to trade Jermaine O'Neal to the Lakers for a package including Andrew Bynum, Luke Walton (sign and trade), Kwame Brown and the 19th pick in the draft. Throw in Brian Cook with that package and the money would work for Garnett to go to the Lakers.

Either trade -- the pipe dream with Boston or a reasonable deal with the Lakers -- would make the long-term outlook better and not have all that much effect on the futile present for the Timberwolves.

As for Hunter, there's no one who has watched a Twins game in the past decade that would prefer a Torii trade. He's a character, he's a competitor and he's a better hitter the past two seasons than at any time in his career.

He also will turn 32 next month. No matter what platitudes you read from Ryan or other Twins officials on the possibility of bringing back Hunter, let's not be idiotic here:

Larry Reynolds is Hunter's agent, and he doesn't offer discounts. It will take four years at nearly $60 million to sign Hunter. You can't sign a 32-year-old player -- no matter how popular and productive -- for a deal like that when Justin Morneau, 27, and Michael Cuddyer, 28, will need big-dollar, multiyear contracts in the next couple of years.

Morneau, Joe Mauer and Cuddyer ... that's the core of the franchise for the next half-dozen years.

The logical trade would send Hunter to the Yankees for outfielder Melky Cabrera and prospects such as pitcher Tyler Clippard and third baseman Eric Duncan (who has to hit some day after all those rave reviews).

The time is approaching for Ryan to end this dual charade -- that the Twins are a contender, and Hunter might be re-signed -- and make a Chuck Knoblauch-style deal.

He won't, of course, and Torii will walk away in the offseason.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • preusse@startribune.com

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