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Continued: Twins and Torii: Hunting for a resolution

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 3, 2007 - 9:38 PM

Blyleven remembers the 1992 Puckett negotiations, how the center fielder sampled the market and how the Twins nearly matched his best offer.

"Hopefully, we can come around and match or come close to whatever else [Hunter] gets out there, and maybe let Torii decide then," Blyleven said. "As long as the Twins are in the picture, I think that will help the fans, knowing the Twins gave their best effort."

Hunter's market

Prices have continued skyrocketing, however.

In December, the Toronto Blue Jays signed center fielder Vernon Wells to a seven-year, $126 million extension. In July, the Seattle Mariners gave center fielder Ichiro Suzuki a five-year, $90 million extension.

One can argue that both are better players. But unlike Hunter, neither reached free agency, so neither was the subject of a bidding war.

Hunter isn't the only center fielder on this year's market. That list also includes Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand and Mike Cameron, though Cameron must serve a 25-game suspension to start next season.

Hunter's agent, Larry Reynolds, said he doesn't think the large supply of free-agent center fielders will lower the demand. He also doesn't think age will work against Hunter, even though Jones and Rowand are younger.

"If a guy takes care of himself, then [age] shouldn't be that big of an issue," Reynolds said.

He pointed to Alex Rodriguez, who at age 32 is reportedly seeking a $350 million contract.

"They're talking about 10 years for A-Rod and not even thinking twice," Reynolds said. "He came out [of the draft] the same year [as Hunter], and they're the same age. There are a number of guys who are playing until they're 38-40 years old now, and even longer."

Still, the recent track record for high-paid center fielders isn't glowing. The New York Yankees signed Johnny Damon to a four-year, $52 million contract two years ago, when he was 32. This year, they moved him to left field.

Gary Matthews, 33, regressed this year after signing his five-year, $50 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels last November. Even Wells, who signed his deal at 28, struggled, batting .245 for the Blue Jays.

In 1992, Puckett was actually listed at age 31, but his birth year was later found to be 1960 instead of 1961. Nonetheless, he was a star. He had finished second in the voting for American League Most Valuable Player that season and won his sixth Gold Glove.

The Twins never regretted his last contract. Puckett didn't win another Gold Glove and actually moved from center to right field in 1994. But in his final three seasons, he batted .308 with an average of 22 homers and 100 RBI before glaucoma cut short his career in 1996.

"People say 32 is old; it's not old," Hunter said. "I feel like I can beat anybody now. And when I'm 36 or 37, I could move to right field and still make plays."

A PR nightmare?

By retaining Puckett, the Twins kept the face of their franchise.

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  • BRIAN PETERSON ¥ brianp@startribune.comMinneapolis, MN - 9/23/2007Twins - White SoxTwins centerfielder Torii Hunter tips his hat to the cheering fans as he leaves the field in the 9th inning. This could be Hunters last home game as a Minnesota Twin.

  • FREE AGENCY 2007-08 Who's on the market: Alex Rodriguez, Torii Hunter, Barry Bonds, Kerry Wood, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera headline this year's free-agent crop. Timeline: Players began filing for free agency Monday, and their former teams have exclusive negotiating rights for 15 days after the World Series. Beginning Nov. 13, those players are free to sign with any team. Twins outlook: Their chances of retaining Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva appear slim. They could dream of adding Mike Lowell at third base, but the more likely scenario has them addressing that hole through a trade.
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Miami - LP: B. Morris 4 FINAL
Washington - WP: M. Grace 6
NY Yankees - LP: C. Martin 1 FINAL
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 3
Philadelphia - WP: A. Harang 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Wood 2
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 5 FINAL
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 1
Los Angeles - LP: C. Hatcher 3 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: M. Blazek 4
Chicago Cubs - LP: P. Strop 9 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Socolovich 10
Oakland - LP: J. Hahn 7 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 8
Texas - WP: K. Kela 2 FINAL
Houston - LP: C. Qualls 1
Arizona 0 Postponed
Colorado 0
Seattle 3 Top 9th Inning
LA Angels 1
San Diego 0 Bottom 8th Inning
San Francisco 2
Chicago 99 FINAL
Cleveland 92
LA Clippers 117 FINAL
Houston 101
NY Rangers 0 FINAL
Washington 1
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