Morneau signs six-year, $80M extension; Cuddyer gets $24M for three years

MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer sat side
by side, recipients of
$104 million of commitment from Carl
Pohlad's bank account.

For a Minnesota Twins fan base that has watched Torii Hunter and
Carlos Silva leave in free agency and worried about the possible
trade of two-time AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana, it had to be a
welcome sight.

Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP, received the most lucrative contract
in Twins history -- an $80 million, six-year deal. Cuddyer got three
years and $24 million.

"It's pretty cool," Morneau said after his record deal was
announced Friday. "I guess it means I'm buying all the time."

It was a exciting beginning to the team's annual TwinsFest, which
brings players, fans and souvenir vendors to the Metrodome for a
weekend of autograph signings, photo opportunities and interaction
in preparation for the start of spring training.

"I'm happy for the fans," Cuddyer said. "There's been a lot
of negative going around, obviously this offseason, with the loss
of Torii and Carlos and the whole Johan situation. To have some
positive light for the fans is pretty special."

General manager Bill Smith reiterated his preference to keep
Santana but said the team would look at all other options if
Minnesota concludes that's impossible. He added that these two
contracts do not affect any other players.

"I don't think it's any great change in philosophy," Smith

Assistant general manager Rob Antony handled the negotiations
and praised Pohlad and his sons for approving the deals during an
offseason in which Hunter left for the Angels and Silva went to

The Pohlads didn't "want this to continue to happen," Antony

The Twins, with a core of Morneau, Cuddyer and catcher Joe Mauer
to carry them into their new ballpark in 2010, have reached
agreement with all of their arbitration-eligible players. Morneau
agreed to a $7.4 million, one-year contract last week, but both
sides wanted to negotiate a longer deal.

The Twins also added slugger Delmon Young in a trade with Tampa
Bay, a move that may have been the key to keeping Morneau in
Minnesota for the long run.

"If we didn't make that move to get Delmon Young, I might have
looked at it a little differently," Morneau said. "To bring in
him, he's got a chance to be one of the best hitters in the game.
To be in the lineup with him and Joe and now Cuddy, it helps my
decision. It showed me that they want to get better and want to

The first baseman hit .271 with 31 homers and 111 RBIs last
year, becoming the first Twins player since Gary Gaetti in 1987 to
have back-to-back 30-homer seasons.

Morneau's deal includes a $6 million signing bonus. He will make
$7.4 million this year, $10.6 million in 2009 and $14 million in
each of the final four years in a deal structured to give the Twins
as much salary flexibility as possible to bring in more players.

Cuddyer has emerged as a dependable run producer in the middle
of the lineup, though his numbers dropped from a career year in

The ninth overall draft pick in 1997, Cuddyer hit .276 with 16
homers and 81 RBIs last season. He led the AL with 19 outfield
assists while perfecting the art of playing the ball off that
tricky big baggie in right field at the Metrodome.

Cuddyer gets a $2.75 million signing bonus and salaries of $5
million this year, $6.75 million in 2009 and $8.5 million in 2010.
Minnesota has a $10.5 million club option for 2011 with a $1
million buyout.

"This gives them lifetimes, generations, of security," Smith
said. "That's a wonderful thing for them. And we wouldn't do it if
we didn't have the confidence that they could handle it. Some guys,
you're better off to go year to year. These two guys, they will
work harder."