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
Final(10)2345678910RHE
Cleveland0020110004111
Minnesota «0110010115112
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:J.Burton(3-5) L:K.Crockett(4-1)
HR: CLE- M.Brantley (20) MIN- O.Arcia (19), K.Vargas (9)

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 5 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: D. O`Day 3
Milwaukee - LP: J. Broxton 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Holdzkom 4
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 5
Washington - WP: D. Fister 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: T. Koehler 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Cleveland - LP: K. Crockett 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: J. Burton 5
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 10 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 5
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 15
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Lackey 2
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 3
Texas - WP: L. Bonilla 12 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 3
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 5
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 5
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
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