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Guardado awaits 'best offer'

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins continued contract talks
with free agent closer Eddie Guardado on Tuesday but lost setup man LaTroy Hawkins, who agreed to sign a contract with the Chicago Cubs.

The deal, which is subject to Hawkins passing a physical, has an
average annual value of about $3.67 million. It was unclear if the
contract was guaranteed for two or three years.

Twins general manager Terry Ryan confirmed that Hawkins had
signed with Chicago.

"We were certainly hoping to bring him back," Ryan said.
"Obviously, he got security. It sounds like he got dollars. I
could never fault a player for taking a deal that sets him up. I
feel horrible about losing him."

The Twins had been hoping that Hawkins would hold off on signing
with another team until they could negotiate with him.

Reliever Joe Nathan, one of three pitchers acquired in a trade
that sent All-Star catcher A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco, could
take Hawkins' place.

Earlier Tuesday, Ryan said he was optimistic about being able to
re-sign the team's top three free agents: Hawkins, Guardado and
outfielder Shannon Stewart. Left-handed starter Kenny Rogers is
another key free agent. But Ryan, who's working with a payroll of
about $56 million, wasn't so sure the Twins could reach a deal with
him.

"I've got interest in Kenny Rogers, but it's probably
unrealistic to think he'll be back next year," Ryan said.

Teams must offer salary arbitration to their free agents by
Sunday or lose the rights to re-sign them until May 1. And after
Sunday, other teams can sign free agents without forfeiting draft
picks.

"It's a week that brings some conclusions," Ryan said.
"That's the good thing about deadlines."

Guardado's agent, Kevin Kohler, said Tuesday that he isn't
expecting the Twins' best offer until the weekend. Kohler also said
he thinks the Twins won't offer the two-time All-Star arbitration
since he'd likely win a bigger salary.

"This is the week that something needs to happen," Kohler
said, adding that he's been contacted by about five teams who are
seriously interested in pursuing Guardado, whose stock has clearly
risen after a second consecutive 40-plus save season.

"Right now, I would say we're just putting ideas on the table
that both sides think might work," Kohler said.

The agents for Stewart, who was acquired in July and voted the
team's Most Valuable Player, and Rogers didn't return phone calls
seeking comment.

Both Guardado and Hawkins, who were frustrated that the team
wouldn't negotiate new contracts for them during the regular
season, had tied their futures in Minnesota to each other.

"If Eddie's not here, I'm not here," Hawkins said in October
after Minnesota was eliminated from the playoffs by the New York
Yankees.

Likewise, Guardado said he'd be hesitant about coming back
without Hawkins, who had a 1.86 ERA with a 9-3 record in 77 1/3
innings last season.