American League Most Valuable Player Justin Morneau signed a one year contract of a total of $4.5 million with the Minnesota Twins, who also settled their salary arbitration cases with third baseman Nick Punto; who agreed to a $4.2 million, two-year contract, and with reliever Juan Rincon who received a $2 million, one-year deal and with outfielder Lew Ford who obtained a $2 million, one-year deal.
Morneau, the 25-year-old first baseman, hit .321 last year with 34 homers and 130 RBIs and won the MVP award by 14 points over New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Morneau's agreement was at the midpoint between the $5 million he had asked for and the $4 million the team offered to the player who hit more homers than any Twin in a season since 1987.
Rincon went 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA in 74 1-3 innings as Minnesota's primary setup man to closer Joe Nathan. Rincon, who has appeared in at least 75 games in each of the last three seasons, also settled at the midpoint after asking for $2.4 million and receiving an offer of $1.6 million from the team.
Punto, who hit .290 with 47 RBIs and 17 steals for the AL Central champions in his first year as a full-time starter, will get $1.8 million this season and $2.4 million in 2008. He had asked for $2.1 million and had been offered $1.6 million.
Ford was a backup last year who hit .226 with 18 RBIs in 234 at-bats. In addition to his base salary, he could earn $65,000 in performance bonuses: $15,000 for 300 plate appearances and $25,000 each for 400 and 450 plate appearances. Ford had asked for $1.3 million and had been offered $800,000.
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