Twins re-sign AL MVP Morneau, three others

MINNEAPOLIS (TICKER) —American League MVP Justin Morneau reportedly will cost the Minnesota Twins just $4.5 million.

Morneau was one of three players signed to one-year contracts Friday by the Twins, who also signed third baseman Nick Punto to a two-year deal. All four players were eligible for arbitration.

The Twins did not disclose financial terms. However, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on its web site the value of the deals for Morneau, Punto ($4.2 million) and outfielder Lew Ford ($985,000). Righthanded reliever Juan Rincon’s salary was not reported.

Morneau, a 25-year-old first baseman, made just $385,000 last season, when he emerged as the most dangerous bat in Minnesota’s lineup and edged New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter for MVP honors. He batted .321 with 34 homers and 130 RBI, powering a second-half surge that gave the Twins the AL Central Division title.

Morneau was the youngest player to win the AL MVP since Frank Thomas in 1993 and the first Twin to win it since Rod Carew in 1977. His RBI total was second in franchise history behind Harmon Killebrew, who had 140 in his 1969 AL MVP season.

Punto, 29, shook his reputation as a light-hitting defensive player by batting .290 with a homer, 45 RBI and 17 steals last season. He established career highs in games (135), runs (73), hits (133), doubles (21), triples (7), RBI, walks (47) and steals.

Ford, 30, batted .226 with four homers and 18 RBI in 104 games of an injury-plagued campaign. He has a career average of .275 with 74 doubles, 10 triples, 29 home runs and 158 RBI in 439 games.

Rincon, 28, was 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA and one save in 75 appearances, the third straight season he has pitched in at least 75 games. In 74 1/3 innings, he struck out 65 and walked 24.

Among the Twins still eligible for arbitration are catcher Joe Mauer, who won the AL batting title and finished sixth in MVP voting, and slugging outfielder Michael Cuddyer.

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Updated Friday, Feb 2, 2007