This comment ended up being so long, and it's going to be such a great discussion point, so I just put it on the front page along with a copy of SBG's original post.
Torii Hunter tells the Twins what it will take to keep him in a Twins uniform.
Says Torii: "I already don't like the Dome, so I'm not going to get used. It's got to be a long-term deal. For me to be here it's got to be five or six years."
Five or six years. For Hunter. Says Top Jimmy:
Hunter is making $10.75 million this year. The Twins have an option to keep him for 2007 at $12 million.
The Yankees signed center fielder Johnny Damon for five years at $55 million last offseason, and that might provide a benchmark for Hunter's expectations.
With Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Santana, Liriano and Nathan all expected to make big money over that time, I can't see any way the Twins could possibly agree to that kind of contract.
Hunter also wants to stay in Minnesota, and he should know that the Twins can't offer him the same kind of deal that the Yankees (over)paid Damon. He's also said in the past that he'd work a new deal for next season, because he knows the Twins can't do $12 million. While Damon's contract "might" provide a benchmark, it doesn't have to and it certainly shouldn't.
If Hunter wants 5 or 6 years, it can be done without sacrificing financial breathing room over the same period. Optimistically, I'd hope Hunter would sign for 5 years at $40 million or 6 for around $50 million. These deals could be stacked with heavier prices toward the back end of the deal to coincide with whatever additional revenue there may be from the new ballpark, or the first couple years could be a little heavier to provide financial breathing room for Mauer, Morneau and Liriano when they're into their contract years.
Hell, reasonable performance-based incentives could lower a guaranteed contract, if Hunter and the Twins could find a middle ground.
The bottom line for me is that there has to be a creative way to get a contract done that works out for both sides. The Twins want to keep Hunter; Hunter wants to be a Twin. As long as that doesn't change there will be a starting point for negotiations.
Beyond 2007 and going into 2008, when Hunter will be 32, there will still be a place for him here, be it LF, RF or DH. With stars like Mauer and Morneau emerging, and with upside on guys like Cuddyer and Kubel, the Twins will need a player like Torii who can be complimentary on both sides of the ball to a decent extent.
Taking a quick glance at the OF future for the Twins, Span could be ready by 2008 and Romero possibly in the fall of 2007, with Kubel and Cuddyer in the mix. Lew Ford has proven to be a nice utility guy in the field, but he'll be 30 in August of this year, and his offense these last two years appears the be the rule and not the exception; Ford may become expendable. And I love my Lew Ford, too.
The best case scenario for 2008 includes an OF made up of 3 from this group, sans Hunter: Kubel, Cuddyer, Span and Romero. As optimistic as I want to be about the two still in the minors, best case usually doesn't work out. There are no other legitimate OF prospects in the Minnesota system that will be ready by 2008, and I'd rather pay Hunter than take a gamble on a one or two (years) and done free agent.
I'm definitely a homer. I'm definitely a Torii guy. It's probably a "safe" move, if I were the one to make it. In spite of all those things, I'm trying to be as objective as I can with what will end up being a major business decision for the Twins. Signing Hunter isn't just a "feel good" decision; it's the right decision.