Twins reluctant to negotiate with Hunter

Twins reluctant to negotiate with Hunter

CHICAGO -- Torii Hunter can empathize with what Mark Buehrle is going through right now.

Buehrle's contractual status with the White Sox has been the subject of speculation for weeks now. Questions about if, when and where he will be traded have smothered him.

Hunter knows the feeling. Both players are home-grown products, hometown favorites and will be home free to test the waters of free agency when the 2007 season ends.

"From what I've been reading and what I've been hearing, Buehrle took almost like a discount in order to stay [in Chicago]," Hunter said. "This is a guy who came up in the organization, home grown, and you would think they would give him one."

The same situation could apply to Hunter. Hunter was drafted by the Twins as the 20th overall pick of the 1993 First-Year Player Draft and has played in Minnesota his whole career.

That career has been a prolific one so far. Hunter played his first full season for the Twins in 1999 and has been a marquis player ever since.

Defensively, he has enough highlight-worthy catches to fill a full-length movie. Often called one of the best center fielders in the game, he's won six consecutive American League Gold Glove Awards.

Offensively, Hunter has a career .271 average, but he's hitting above that this season, at .304. He earned his second bid to the All-Star Game this year.

With all those abilities and accolades, Hunter may have priced himself right out of the Twins' market. Their 2007 payroll, $71,439,500, ranks 19th in Major League Baseball.

"You know what's sad, is you can't give nothing when you haven't talked to anybody. You can't give a discount or get big money," Hunter said. "I don't know what's going on. It might not even be because of the money. It might be just because they don't want me there."

Hunter, who will make $12 million this season, reiterated before Sunday's game that he would love to stay in Minnesota, but that he doesn't really know what to think about his current contract negotiations.

"I don't know what's going on. We haven't talked. I tried to talk to them several times and they turned me down," Hunter said. "All I can do is go out there and have fun. I'm at peace with it right now, but once the season is over with, then I'm going out there to have fun with it. As long as I get to play the game of baseball, it doesn't matter what team I play for."

Twins general manager Terry Ryan was reluctant to talk about Hunter's contract negotiations, explaining that those things are better left behind closed doors.

"It's not that I don't want to talk about. It's just something that, publicly, I haven't talked about. It's insensitive," Ryan said. "So instead of mapping it out in the media, I think I'm always better off [keeping quiet] ... and I know it's not what people want to read or hear, but sometimes I just have to say it's not something I discuss in the media."

But Ryan remained optimistic.

"These things usually have a way of working themselves out," Ryan said.

Hunter isn't letting the contract issue detract attention from his play, and is actually relishing the chance to think about a future that may take him somewhere else.

"I know I control my situation, and I know right now I'm just going out to play and enjoying the free agent talks. People say it's pressure, but it's actually fun," Hunter said. "There's no pressure at all. It's actually fun, to see different teams that probably want you. They have different ideas and they think they want you. It's pretty exciting."

Leslie Parker is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.