Twins trying to avoid arbitration with three players

Saturday, January 19th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ The Minnesota Twins, continuing to operate under the assumption they'll be playing the 2002 season, exchanged salary arbitration figures on Friday with three of their players.

General manager Terry Ryan said the Twins submitted proposed salaries for one-year contracts for center fielder Torii Hunter ($2 million), designated hitter David Ortiz ($750,000) and left-handed reliever Travis Miller (425,000).

The players' agents asked for these numbers: Hunter, $2.7 million; Ortiz, $1.395 million; Miller, $695,000.

Most of the 90 major leaguers who filed for arbitration will agree to contracts before hearings, scheduled for Feb. 4-21 in Tampa, Fla. The cases will be heard by three-person panels of arbitrators, unless the sides settle before then.

That's what Ryan is hoping for.

``We certainly want to exhaust every opportunity to avoid arbitration,'' Ryan said Friday afternoon, before he saw the agents' proposals.

Hunter's California-based agent, Larry Reynolds, said Friday he and the Twins would continue to discuss a possible long-term contract for the 26-year-old Hunter, who hit a career-high 27 home runs in 2001.

``We're going through a process like I'm sure a number of other players and teams are right now,'' Reynolds said. ``We'll just keep moving forward and see what happens.''

Starting pitcher Joe Mays, Minnesota's other arbitration-eligible player, signed a four-year, $20 million contract on Wednesday.

Commissioner Bud Selig announced Nov. 6 the game's intent to eliminate two teams, and the Twins are thought to be one of the targets. Even with spring training less than a month away, Selig insisted at this week's owners meetings in Phoenix that the contraction plan can still be carried out before the season starts.

That said, baseball has directed teams to carry on offseason business assuming the 2002 season will include all 30 clubs.

Another item on Ryan's plate is trying to find a team for starting pitcher Rick Reed, who was acquired last summer from the New York Mets. Reed requested a trade in November, and the Twins must deal him by March 15 or lose him to free agency.

``He hasn't rescinded his trade demand,'' Ryan said. ``It's still on the books. We're going to continue to explore that.''

Reed, who didn't answer a phone call to his Ohio home on Friday, would solidify a Twins rotation that's already strong. Brad Radke, Eric Milton and Mays are all under contract through at least 2004.

``We're trying to keep good players here,'' Ryan said. ``We're operating under the assumption we're going to be playing this season. So we're anxious to move on.''