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Sunday, February 2
Updated: March 13, 12:46 PM ET
Jones avoids arbitration with two-year deal

Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Twins left fielder Jacque Jones avoided arbitration by signing a two-year, $7.1 million contract on Sunday.

Jacque Jones
Left Field
Minnesota Twins
149 27 85 96 6 .300

He's the latest to sign a multiyear deal among the core of young players that helped lead the Twins to the AL Championship Series in 2002, their first postseason appearance since 1991.

Minnesota gave All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter a four-year, $32 million deal last month.

"I'd like to play here for awhile," Jones said. "We've got the whole team intact. Hopefully we can all try to win the World Series this year."

Jones, the Twins' last remaining arbitration-eligible player, had asked for $3.2 million for this season. The team offered $2.75 million, and since discussions on a one-year deal weren't progressing, Jones and agent Dan Lozano were prepared to go all the way through the arbitration process.

But the Twins and Lozano began talking about a two-year contract within the past week after realizing they were closer on that front.

"It was nice to get that commitment from the team," Lozano said. "Jacque's really happy with that."

Jones, a close friend of Hunter's, expressed some disappointment earlier in the winter that the Twins were talking about a long-term contract with Hunter and not with him since their statistics are so similar.

Hunter hit .289 with 29 homers and 94 RBI.

At the Metrodome Sunday for the team's annual fan festival, Jones softened his stance a little.

"I wasn't frustrated at all," Jones said. "I was just stating the facts. People always say the numbers don't lie. I just felt like I had to state that to support my opinion."

Jones had a career season last year as Minnesota's leadoff man, batting .300 with 27 homers, 85 RBI and a team-high 96 runs. He hit .352 with runners in scoring position, but his on-base percentage was just .341.

Manager Ron Gardenhire, if he can find a capable replacement at the top of the lineup, might move Jones down the order into an RBI spot. Or he might not.

"Anytime your leadoff guy ends up with 80-some RBI and 20-some homers, why screw with the thing you've got going here," Gardenhire said. "So we'll see.

"This is good for Jacque. He's put together some big years here. This is a good sign."

Jones is a strong fielder, and the Twins often boast he can play center as well as two-time Gold Glove winner Hunter.

"We've had some problems in left field in the past with guys adjusting to the ceiling and the lights and the wall, but we've been fortunate the last couple years with Torii and Jacque out there," general manager Terry Ryan said. "Jacque had a good year. He's still got a chance to be a better player."

Hunter's happy to have some stability next to him in the outfield.

"We play well with each other," Hunter said. "If Jacque leaves, it'd be hard to play with somebody else out there."

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