Twins get Hunter's pal Monroe from Cubs

Despite Tuesday's trade, it appears the outfielder would have to take a cut in salary to stay with the team.

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Craig Monroe played 99 games for Detroit last season before being traded to the Cubs.

Photo: G. Newman Lowrance, Getty Images

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Outfielder Craig Monroe was traded to the Twins for a player to be named later on Tuesday, but indications are that the only way he can go to spring training with the team is if he agrees to a contract worth less than the $4.775 million he made last season.

The Twins will try to sign Monroe, who batted .219 with 12 homers and 59 RBI last season in stints with the Tigers and Cubs, to a contract to avoid arbitration. But a Twins source said Tuesday that the team intends to sign him for less than he made last season or non-tender him by the Dec. 1 deadline.

Terms of the deal require the Twins to send the Cubs a minor leaguer only if Monroe remains with the team. The Twins traded for Monroe because they think he can bounce back from a horrible 2007 season and provide power to a lineup that sorely needs it.

Before learning that strings were attached to him joining the team, Monroe said returning to the AL Central should help him rebound after a 2007 season in which he said he didn't get enough at-bats to get his game going.

"I went through a tough period," he said. "All players go through it. I need to go out and prove to myself and everyone in baseball what Craig Monroe can do."

Monroe played 99 games with Detroit and 23 with the Cubs last season. He's a high-strikeout, low-walk hitter who needs to make more contact. He's a solid outfielder who will share left field with Jason Kubel and be the designated hitter.

It's an odd development because Monroe and Torii Hunter are friends. They both live in Texas and work out together in the offseason.

"We're built the same way," Monroe said. "We have the same love [for the game] and the passion and the desire to be good."

Monroe is aware of the irony of him becoming a Twin when Hunter appears to be leaving as a free agent.

"I've talked to Torii about that," Monroe said. "We've always talked about playing together. Now I have a chance to be Twin and there's a chance [Hunter] is leaving. I'm tugging at him [to stay] but I wish the best for him and his family."

The Twins are hoping Monroe will produce closer to his 2006 season, when he batted .255 with 28 homers and 92 RBI with Detroit.

"That's my boy," Hunter said. "I can't believe they picked him up."'

The business side of baseball, however, supersedes friendships. Hunter hasn't had any contract discussions with the Twins since late in the regular season.

Hunter said Tuesday that six to 10 teams are interested in him. And his decision to remain with the Twins also depends on which direction the club is headed.

"Trading for Craig is not going to get me back there." Hunter said. "[The trade] looks good, I can tell you that. But that's not all of it. Can you guarantee that Johan [Santana] is going to be back? Joe Nathan? There's other stuff right now.

"But it's open. It's time to talk."

Twins General Manager Bill Smith's ambitious offseason plans are to improve the Twins' offense while resigning Hunter and free agent pitcher Carlos Silva and extending Santana's contract. The Twins have offered Silva a three-year contract for less than $20 million.

The Twins got only 10 homers out of the DH position last season, second lowest in the AL, and obviously need help.

It remains to be seen whether Monroe can bounce back with or without Hunter in the same lineup -- or if he even makes it to Fort Myers, Fla., in February.

"Without Craig Monroe we would like to have Torii back and with or without Torii we're glad to have Craig Monroe," Smith said. "If it's a package, great."

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