MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Right fielder Jacque Jones agreed Monday to a $5 million, one-year contract with the Minnesota Twins that avoided salary arbitration.
The Twins also agreed to one-year deals with second baseman Luis Rivas ($1,625,000), designated hitter Matthew LeCroy ($750,000), outfielder Michael Ryan (next year's minimum plus $5,000) and right-hander Matt Guerrier (minimum plus $2,500). Next year's minimum salary will be about $316,000.
Rivas and LeCroy were both eligible for salary arbitration, Ryan and Guerrier were not.
Minnesota offered contracts to its four other arbitration-eligible players: left-handers Johan Santana and J.C. Romero and right-handers Kyle Lohse and Carlos Silva.
The important part for general manager Terry Ryan was that he didn't have to let anybody go - with a payroll that's up against owner Carl Pohlad's cap in the mid-$50 million range.
"Today was a big day for us," Ryan said.
Jones' future with the team has been in question for the last two seasons because of that limited payroll and several outfield prospects behind him. But the Twins have always insisted Jones - who batted .254 last year with 24 homers and 80 RBIs - is a player they want to keep.
"I've tried to say that for the last number of months, years even," general manager Terry Ryan said. "I understand people have said we have all kinds of outfield depth. But Jacque gives us offense, he hits for power and he plays a good right field. He's unselfish, he's durable, he's a good teammate. He's a lot of things that we're about here."
Jones, sixth among AL outfielders with a .994 fielding percentage, became even more important when rookie Jason Kubel sustained extensive damage to his left knee in a collision during an Arizona Fall League game. Kubel could miss the entire 2005 season.
The entire pitching staff, which led the AL in ERA last season, will be back for next season, but offense is a concern. The three-time AL Central champion Twins have lost third baseman Corey Koskie, shortstop Cristian Guzman and backup catcher Henry Blanco to free agency.
Uncertainty in the infield prompted Minnesota to bring Rivas back despite a disappointing, injury-plagued season in which he batted .256 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs in 336 at-bats.
"We've got a little more youth than we're used to," Ryan said. "There's just not that security blanket there. Some of those guys need to step up. That's got Rivas written all over it."
Negotiations with Santana, the AL Cy Young winner, and the other three arbitration-eligible players will likely continue into the new year. Arbitration filing is in January, and the hearings take place in February if deals haven't been reached by then.