|Wednesday, January 8
Updated: March 13, 5:43 PM ET
Twins resume talks with Hunter, but are in no rush
Hunter, coming off a career season, isn't eligible to enter free agency for three more years.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan and Hunter's agent, Larry Reynolds, discussed a multi-year deal last winter but couldn't reach an agreement. They're giving it another go this month, as Ryan sent Reynolds the team's initial proposal earlier this week.
"It's going to be an ongoing thing,'' Ryan said Wednesday. "We've started the process. There isn't a timeframe. There's willingness on both parts to see if we can get one done.''
If not, they'll do a one-year contract and -- both sides hope -- avoid going to salary arbitration. Last year, they agreed on a $2.4 million contract just seconds before Hunter's hearing began.
Hunter, 27, batted .289 with 29 homers, 94 RBI, 23 stolen bases, finished sixth in the AL Most Valuable Player voting and won his second Gold Glove -- driving up his price considerably. Neither side will discuss the financial terms, but the Twins' offer is believed to be for at least three years.
Just like the Twins, Hunter is staying patient.
"We've still got a lot of ground to cover, but I hope we can get it done,'' Hunter said from his home in suburban Dallas. "Either I get that long-term deal or we just go year to year.''
With spring training just 5½ weeks away, the Twins' roster is just about set with their payroll set to climb over $50 million.
Ryan is looking for another right-handed reliever -- free agents Mike Fetters (formerly of Arizona) and Rick White (St. Louis) are possibilities -- and also must speak with the agents for left fielder Jacque Jones and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz about one-year contracts to avoid arbitration.
On Jan. 17, teams submit offers to arbitration-eligible players, and the agents for those players do the same. Hunter, Jones and Mientkiewicz are the only Twins who are eligible this year.
If agreements aren't reached, an independent panel listens to both sides in February and decides on the contract.
"Most people aren't a big fan of arbitration,'' Ryan said. "I'm at the top of the list.''
Twins position players must report to Fort Myers, Fla., by Feb. 21. Hunter and most of his teammates, anxious to improve on an appearance in the AL championship series, will be there earlier than that.
The offseason, without any of the distractions from the threat of contraction in 2002, has been much better for the Twins.
"Last year, I was trying to figure out what team I was going to play for,'' Hunter said. "I was scared to get an apartment. This year, I made my reservations for spring training early.''