The outfielder still wants a multiyear contract, but at least some of his uncertainty is over.
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan called Torii Hunter on Tuesday to inform him that the $12 million option on his 2007 contract had been picked up.
Hunter politely responded by repeating his recent assertion that his desire is to hammer out another multiyear deal that would give him peace of mind and hopefully carry into 2010, the year the Twins' new ballpark is scheduled to open.
"I do want a multiyear deal," Hunter said, "but you can't always get what you want. I told him what I wanted but, right there and then. He can't make that decision, and I understand that. A multiyear deal can take all winter. We'll see what happens."
Hunter and ace lefthander Johan Santana will earn $12 million next season, a club record for salary in one season.
Hunter said he would prefer to have a deal worked out before play begins next season, but the Twins are facing many decisions regarding their payroll.
Three of this season's top hitters -- Joe Mauer, 23, Michael Cuddyer, 27, and Justin Morneau, 25 -- are due significant raises, and the club might opt to sign them to long-term deals before they address Hunter. If they do, how much will be left for him?
Hunter, during a conversation late in the season, suggested that the organization could decline his option and use the $12 million on Mauer and Morneau.
"They should be locked up," Hunter said at the time.
Ryan said now isn't the time to talk about keeping Hunter beyond next season.
"That's for another day," Ryan said. "Right now we're on a one-year contract. That's what the option called for."
Hunter, 31, made $10.75 million this year, justifying it by batting .278 with 31 homers -- a career high -- and 98 RBI despite being hobbled by a stress fracture in his left foot that in mid-season affected his ability to chase down balls hit to the outfield.
He hit .314 with nine homers and 27 RBI in September to help the Twins' postseason run. He hit .273 in the playoffs with a homer and two RBI.
According to terms of the contract, the Twins had five days following the end of their season to pick up Hunter's option or pay him a $2 million buyout.
"It feels good to have him back," Ryan said. "He's a quality center fielder in the prime of his career. It's definitely a good feeling when you know you have some people who have helped you get to this point coming back to help you."
Despite calling Tuesday a "great day for the family," Hunter doesn't want to play with the pressure of needing a big season to earn "another nice deal." He also doesn't want to worry about being traded.
"I'm happy for Torii," said Larry Reynolds, Hunter's agent, "but I know that, at some point, he wants to get things settled because he doesn't want to be in the middle of discussions and rumors throughout the year as it relates to the long-term impact on his career."
Hunter stressed that he is not upset with Ryan.
"Terry is my guy," Hunter said. "I've known him since 1993, and he's one of the guys I can talk to. But he does work for someone else."
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