Jim Souhan: An unhappy adieu, but a wise decision

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2007 - 8:56 PM

Though it saddens many to see Torii Hunter leave, it didn't make sense for the Twins to pony up the money to keep him.

Call Carl Pohlad cheap. Call the Twins feeble. Call new General Manager Bill Smith overmatched, or simply invoke his nickname, "Mr. No."

Torii Hunter's departure for Los Angeles makes the Twins look penurious. Hunter is a magnetic star in his prime leaving a franchise that promised to use its new stadium to keep its best players in Twinstripes, so the Pohlads and his fledgling front office will take a flogging.

They shouldn't. The Twins were right to let Hunter leave, and he didn't intend to stay, regardless of the public relations campaign staged by both sides.

A billionaire owner running a profitable team that will enter a new stadium in 2010 can afford $90 million over five years for a power-hitting center fielder. That doesn't make it a wise investment.

Big-money, long-term contracts can destroy a franchise. Hunter insisted on a five- or six-year contract. The Twins didn't mind paying Hunter $15 million a year while he's in his prime; they balked at paying even more for a 36-year-old corner outfielder with a battered body, which is what Hunter figures to be in 2011.

Any self-respecting fan in town would rather see Hunter in a Twins uniform, and fears seeing this pathetic lineup without his bat. But signing him would have meant paying a high percentage of the payroll to one player.

That rarely works in baseball, and it wasn't likely to work on a mediocre team with payroll restrictions.

Most likely, Hunter would have helped the Twins hover near .500 the next two or three years, then become a financial millstone.

Pay no attention to the details of the negotiations. Don't worry about who did or didn't call whom. Hunter wanted a five-year deal to play on a grass field for a team with championship aspirations. The Twins never qualified.

If the Twins are to be second-guessed, they should be second-guessed over their decisions in July, not November. Knowing they weren't going to sign Hunter to a long-term deal, the Twins had two choices at the trading deadline:

• Concede that this would be their last pennant race with Hunter and Johan Santana in the fold, and sell out to try to win in 2007. That would have meant keeping Luis Castillo and adding a power arm and a power bat, which then-GM Terry Ryan said was impossible to do at the time. Or ...

• Concede that the 2007 team wasn't good or deep enough, and trade Hunter and Carlos Silva, among others, at the deadline.

Instead, the Twins served neither their immediate nor long-term plans, trading Castillo for little value, and failing to acquire players who could help either immediately or in the future.

Which makes it imperative that they make Johan Santana their new-millennium Frank Viola, and trade him for players who can help them contend in the new stadium.

Keep Santana, and he will consume a huge percentage of the payroll and, every five days, will have a chance to lose 3-2.

Hunter's depature means there are no front-line players remaining from the 2002 team that broke the Twins' playoff drought. They blew it when they let David Ortiz go; otherwise, their decisions have been vindicated.

Doug Mientkiewicz, Luis Rivas, Cristian Guzman, Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones, A.J. Pierzynski, Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, Eric Milton and Joe Mays all were cut loose when they became more expensive than they were worth.

At $90 million for a 32-year-old, Hunter now is more expensive, in the context of a middle-market team with payroll limits, than he is worth.

No need to get emotional -- Hunter is a wonderful guy and was a fine player for the Twins, and they were right to let him go.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon on AM-1500 KSTP. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 4th Qtr 7:20
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
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New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 1
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 73 FINAL
Western Mich 55
Marquette 72 FINAL
Georgia Tech 70
Stephen F Austin 70 2nd Half 0:29
Prairie View 61
UAB 45 2nd Half 4:54
Florida 44
Rice 48 2nd Half 8:11
Mercer 53
San Jose St 0 1st Half 17:01
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(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
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(23) Clemson
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Iowa State
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(7) Ohio State
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Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
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