Guardado awaits 'best offer'

Updated: December 3, 2003, 2:43 AM ET
Associated Press

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.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press