Cuddyer agrees to $24 million, 3-year deal with Twins

Updated: January 25, 2008, 7:42 PM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer sat side by side, recipients of $104 million of commitment from Carl Pohlad's bank account.

For a Minnesota Twins fan base that has watched Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva leave in free agency and worried about the possible trade of two-time AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana, it had to be a welcome sight.

Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP, received the most lucrative contract in Twins history -- an $80 million, six-year deal. Cuddyer got three years and $24 million.

"It's pretty cool," Morneau said after his record deal was announced Friday. "I guess it means I'm buying all the time."

It was a boffo beginning to the team's annual TwinsFest, which brings players, fans and souvenir vendors to the Metrodome for a weekend of autograph signings, photo opportunities and interaction in preparation for the start of spring training.

"I'm happy for the fans," Cuddyer said. "There's been a lot of negative going around, obviously this offseason, with the loss of Torii and Carlos and the whole Johan situation. To have some positive light for the fans is pretty special."

General manager Bill Smith reiterated his preference to keep Santana but said the team would look at all other options if Minnesota concludes that's impossible. He added that these two contracts do not affect any other players.

"I don't think it's any great change in philosophy," Smith said.

Assistant general manager Rob Antony handled the negotiations and praised Pohlad and his sons for approving the deals during an offseason in which Hunter left for the Angels and Silva went to Seattle.

The Pohlads didn't "want this to continue to happen," Antony said.

The Twins, with a core of Morneau, Cuddyer and catcher Joe Mauer to carry them into their new ballpark in 2010, have reached agreement with all of their arbitration-eligible players. Morneau agreed to a $7.4 million, one-year contract last week, but both sides wanted to go longer.

The Twins also added slugger Delmon Young in a trade with Tampa Bay, a move that may have been the key to keeping Morneau in Minnesota for the long run.

"If we didn't make that move to get Delmon Young, I might have looked at it a little differently," Morneau said. "To bring in him, he's got a chance to be one of the best hitters in the game. To be in the lineup with him and Joe and now Cuddy, it helps my decision. It showed me that they want to get better and want to win."

The first baseman hit .271 with 31 homers and 111 RBIs last year, becoming the first Twins player since Gary Gaetti in 1987 to have back-to-back 30-homer seasons.

Morneau's deal includes a $6 million signing bonus. He will make $7.4 million this year, $10.6 million in 2009 and $14 million in each of the final four years in a deal structured to give the Twins as much salary flexibility as possible to bring in more players.

Cuddyer has emerged as a dependable run producer in the middle of the lineup, though his numbers dropped from a career year in 2006.

The ninth overall draft pick in 1997, Cuddyer hit .276 with 16 homers and 81 RBIs last season. He led the AL with 19 outfield assists while perfecting the art of playing the ball off that tricky big baggie in right field at the Metrodome.

Cuddyer gets a $2.75 million signing bonus and salaries of $5 million this year, $6.75 million in 2009 and $8.5 million in 2010. Minnesota has a $10.5 million club option for 2011 with a $1 million buyout.

"This gives them lifetimes, generations, of security," Smith said. "That's a wonderful thing for them. And we wouldn't do it if we didn't have the confidence that they could handle it. Some guys, you're better off to go year to year. These two guys, they will work harder."

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AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell contributed to this report.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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