Thursday, November 23, 2006

Torii Hunter Still in Minnesota, But for How Long?

The Minnesota Twins decision to pick up Torii Hunter's, one-year, $12 million contractual option signals that Hunter's injury-plagued season is behind him. Though Hunter hit .278 with 31 homers and 98 RBI -- placing him in the upper tier of offensive performers -- his defensive play lagged so noticeably that he was no longer among MLB's elite, quite a comedown for a player who with Atlanta's Andruw Jones had been regarded by many to be the very best defensive center fielder in baseball. But Hunter's decline was not so much a matter of age -- he's only 31 -- as injury, as Hunter played for most of the season with a nagging ankle. The Twins likely would not have held onto Hunter now if he had permanently lost the defensive dimension of his game, so expect Hunter to return at full tilt this spring. He's believed to be at 100 percent now that he has had several weeks to rest. The problem is that with so many questions in the Twins rotation, the team likely will not remain in contention, prompting Hunter's trade by mid-season. This is evident from the team's spurning of offers by Hunter's agent Larry Reynolds for a multi-year deal.

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