Torii Hunter: 'I didn't want to leave the Twins'

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2007 - 8:52 PM

Star center fielder Torii Hunter signs a five-year, $90 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels -- but there was more to it than money, he says.

Torii Hunter
hide

Torii Hunter

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The parade of high-profile athletes leaving Minnesota continued Thursday, when All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter agreed to a five-year, $90 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

In the end, the Twins' best offer -- three years for $45 million -- wasn't even close. The team bid goodbye to the seven-time Gold Glove Award winner who had been a beloved personality during its run of four division titles in five seasons.

"He has been a true professional," Twins General Manager Bill Smith said. "He's been a great player on the field. He's been great in the community. He's a tremendous person off the field. I'm appreciative of everything he contributed to this organization."

The news came less than four months after the Timberwolves dealt Kevin Garnett to Boston and within the same three-year span that saw the Vikings unload Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper.

Unlike the other stars, Hunter, 32, left via free agency, but the move might be a precursor to the Twins trading Johan Santana, who can become a free agent after next season.

As much as the Twins hate losing top players, the Hunter negotiations -- or lack thereof -- showed the team's continued unwillingness to bend to baseball's market pressures.

"I didn't want to leave the Twins," Hunter said. "I just felt like they were ready to leave me. They thought I was too old to do a five-year deal."

Hunter rejected the Twins' three-year, $45 million offer in August. Three months passed without a new proposal.

Hunter entertained five-year offers from the Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals before the Angels swooped in, unexpectedly.

The Angels made the announcement after midnight Wednesday. Smith said he had to call Hunter on Thursday morning to confirm the news.

"I was surprised that it was the Angels," Smith said. "I think they kind of came out of left field. I think everyone was surprised at how quickly it happened."

A year ago, on Nov. 22, 2006, the Angels signed free-agent center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. to a five-year, $50 million deal. Stacked with other outfielders, the Angels still were desperate to bolster their offense, so they made a late push for Hunter.

"They were nowhere in sight prior to Tuesday," said Hunter's agent, Larry Reynolds. "We were thinking we were going to make a decision next week. But this call from the Angels changed all that because they basically said this offer's on the table for one day."

Hunter made his decision without having one last conversation with the Twins. But Reynolds had called Smith late last week, hinting that other teams were getting serious.

Twins never faltered

Perhaps the Twins were waiting for a counter proposal from Hunter, but they never changed their original offer.

"They dealt with us in a first-class manner, and I think we did the same with them," Smith said. "He got a tremendous offer. I'll just leave it at that.

"I didn't comment during the negotiations, and I don't think it's beneficial for anybody to start commenting on it now."

Because Hunter is a Type-A free agent, the Twins will draw the highest level of compensation for losing him, getting the Angels' 2008 first-round draft pick (No. 27 overall) and a compensation pick between the first and second rounds.

The White Sox and Royals each made offers for about $75 million. Hunter said he was close to a deal with the White Sox at one point, and the Rangers agreed to an option for a sixth year that would have brought their package to $84 million.

Then, the Angels entered with an offer that included a no-trade clause.

"They told me, 'Look, we want you to be our center fielder,'" Hunter said. "And they gave me an amount of money that my momma and all my friends would have slapped me if I turned it down."

Hunter said he's had great respect for how the Angels play the game ever since they defeated the Twins in the 2002 American League Championship Series.

"The money is one part because it blew everybody out of the water," he said. "The other part is they want to win. They play the game the way I like it. The outfield is perfect. The grass is perfect. You can't beat that. The sun is perfect. Every night it's 70 degrees."

Hunter lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Prosper, Texas, so the Rangers offered a chance to play near home. In that respect, the Angels were the next best choice, since they play in the Rangers' division and make three trips to Texas each year.

But Minnesota had become a home for Hunter, too. The Twins made him a first-round draft pick in 1993 and signed him out of high school in Pine Bluff, Ark. He went on to bat .271 with 192 home runs and 711 RBI over parts of 11 seasons with the Twins.

"There's no hard feelings or anything like that," Hunter said. "I wish I could have stayed with the team that I grew up with since I was 17. I wanted to stay with them from Day 1, no matter what people are trying to say that I wanted to leave regardless."

As fate would have it, the Angels open 2008 at the Metrodome on March 31, meaning the next time the Twins play a real game, Hunter will be there -- wearing the opposing uniform.

For the Twins, at least they won't be facing Hunter 18 times a year, as they would have if he would have signed with the White Sox or Royals.

"He joked about that," Smith said. "He said it's probably better for everybody that he's out of the division. And I guess that's probably a good thing for all of us."

  • related content

  • A Fan's View blog

    Thursday November 22, 2007

  • Jim Souhan: An unhappy adieu, but a wise decision

    Thursday November 22, 2007

    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.

  • Fans fuming over Hunter, money, loyalty and Twins

    Thursday November 22, 2007

    Did Torii Hunter knock one out of the park? Or did he abandon Minnesota for greener pastures? Thursday's surprising announcement...

  • Departure leaves another big hole for Twins to fill

    Thursday November 22, 2007

    Given their lack of help in the minors and history going after free agents, a trade for a center fielder could be likely.

  • Hunter's best catches ...

    Thursday November 22, 2007

    Torii Hunter made numerous great catches as a Twin, but a few stand out. Staff writer La Velle E. Neal...

  • What's next?

    Thursday November 22, 2007

    Now that the Torii issue is settled, here are the other Twins story lines to follow this offseason:Will they sign...

  • Torii Hunter bio

    Thursday November 22, 2007

    Age: 32 (born July 18, 1975 inPine Bluff, Ark.)Acquired: first round (20th overall) in June 1993 draftSeasons with Twins: 11...

  • How will Twins fill center field?

    Thursday November 22, 2007

    In-house options: The Twins released Lew Ford last month, and while Jason Tyner is expected back, he's best used as...

  • Torii Hunter

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Minnesota «000003030671
Baltimore000000301461
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:P.Hughes(15-9) L:K.Gausman(7-7) S:G.Perkins (33)
HR: MIN- None BAL- N.Cruz (36), N.Hundley (4)

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: A. Ramos 9
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 7 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: G. Balfour 4
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: S. Maness 5
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Turner 4
Detroit - WP: D. Price 12 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Kluber 1
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Hammel 6
San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt 4 FINAL
Colorado - LP: C. Friedrich 2
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Ross 3
San Francisco - LP: S. Romo 9 FINAL
Colorado - WP: L. Hawkins 10
Washington 6 Bottom 8th Inning
Los Angeles 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 3 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 4
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 13 4th Qtr 9:30
Louisville 24
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 13 FINAL
Calgary 28
Indiana 84 FINAL
Chicago 86
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How sure are you that the Twins are on the road to improving?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close
Torii Hunter