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The Hunter and the Hunted

October 2, 2007 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Are Torii Hunter's days as a Twin over? Will Twins’ fans ever see Torii Hunter rob an opponent’s home run again?

Has Torii Hunter played his last game as a Minnesota Twin?

When the season wrapped up Sunday, the obvious question facing the 32-year-old free-agent-to-be was what uniform he’d be wearing when he next took the field.

Hunter, who has already rejected the three-year, $45-million offer the Twins put on the table in August, now says he’s seeking at least a five-year contract.

Will the Twins, already facing the need to lock up key components in Johan Santana and Justin Morneau, be willing to extend themselves at least two years past their original offer?

History suggests they won’t. You have to go back to 1996 to find the last time Minnesota locked up a player for that long, penning Chuck Knoblauch to a five-year, $30-million deal. And of course, you may recall that in the offseason following the 1997 campaign, the Twins dealt him away to the Yankees for a four-player package plus cash.

So will the Twins, who say they want to keep Hunter, pony up?

You know, I would never say never, said team President Dave St. Peter. I think every player is different. Those are things that you evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

Minnesota will wait until after the World Series before picking up the negotiation trail with Hunter. It will have 15 days to talk to him exclusively at that point before the rest of the baseball world can descend upon the six-time Gold Glover with offers in hand.

Back in June, Hunter actually said he’d like to sign an extension with the Twins and that he might even be willing to accept less money to make it happen. Obviously, he’s changed his tune since then.

If the Twins decide to move in another direction ” which seems very likely given their history and willingness/ability to lay down that kind of coin ” who will land Hunter?

With Barry Bonds having played his last game as a Giant, San Francisco will be seeking a big-name player to ease that transition. A more likely scenario will see Texas open its wallets to land Hunter, who has roots in the area.

While his batting eye is slipping a bit the past couple of seasons, there’s no denying that Hunter will command huge bucks coming off one of the finest seasons of his career. He set new personal bests in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles and RBI, and combined with his always stellar glovework, there will be plenty of teams salivating over the arsenal of tools Hunter brings to the table.

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