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Twins ink Monroe to one-year deal

Twins ink Monroe to one-year deal

MINNEAPOLIS -- The questions surrounding Craig Monroe's future with the Twins were answered on Tuesday when the club signed the outfielder to a one-year contract worth $3.82 million plus incentives based on plate appearances.

The contract Monroe signed is a 20 percent pay cut from the $4.775 million that he made last season. A 20 percent cut is the most a team can deduct for a player under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

"I think, for Craig Monroe, the focus of this deal is opportunity," Twins general manager Bill Smith said. "I'm hoping he comes in here and has a big year. I think he's going to like playing with our players, and I think he's going to like playing for our manager."

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Monroe, 30, is coming off a disappointing 2007 season in which he hit just .219 in 122 games with the Tigers and the Cubs. The Twins acquired him in a trade with the Cubs on Nov. 13 for a player to be named. That player only was to be exchanged if Monroe was signed so the Twins must now send a lower level Minor Leaguer to Chicago by May 1.

Monroe's signing comes one day before the deadline for clubs to tender contracts to unsigned players. Teams have until 11 p.m. CT on Wednesday to offer contracts or non-tender players, effectively making them free agents.

There had been some thought that the Twins might non-tender Monroe after they acquired outfielder Delmon Young in a trade two weeks ago, which created a bit of a crowded-outfield situation.

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Young and Michael Cuddyer are expected to be the starting corner outfielders, and Jason Kubel likely will be the team's primary designated hitter. Monroe's role with the club will be to provide a right-handed bat for the DH spot against lefties and to add some more depth to the outfield.

Despite having Monroe, Young, Cuddyer, Kubel and Jason Tyner all as outfield options, Smith said he isn't concerned about finding enough at-bats for all the players.

"Between right, left and DH, there are going to be plenty of at-bats available," Smith said. "It's a long season. You certainly need quality guys and also a little bit of depth to get through some of the nagging injuries. You also have to give the manager a little more flexibility with matchups throughout the season."

Five outfield options is a lot, considering that none are candidates to take over for Torii Hunter in center field. Smith mentioned the fact that Young and Monroe both have the ability to play center, but the club would prefer them only to fill in as backups at the spot.

"We're still going to need an everyday center fielder," Smith said. "We do not have an ideal candidate for that right now."

Center field isn't the only hole the Twins still have to fill. With so many outfielders and no solution yet at third base, there has been some questions as to whether the Twins might move Cuddyer back to third. It's a position he started at during the 2005 season. But Smith said the club isn't looking to do that at this time.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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