Molitor could still swing the bat, and the impression he made on a talented group of youngsters, including Hunter, helped lay the foundation for the long-struggling team's renaissance. Almost two decades later, Hunter is returning to Minnesota, his home away from home, to play for Molitor and return the favor.
“This is where I needed to be,” Hunter said Wednesday after signing a $10.5-million, one-year contract with the Twins. “This is home for me.”
Hunter spent the first 11 years of his career with the Twins. He was a first-round draft pick as an 18-year-old in 1993 and looked up to Kirby Puckett and Molitor, among others, as he made his way through the system.
Now Hunter is 39, still swinging the bat pretty well in the closing stages of his career. And the Twins are flush with prospects who need a mentor.
“It's crazy how things come full circle,” Hunter said. “Just watching Molitor at the end of his career and I was a young player and he was imparting (wisdom) to me and showing me different things. He's the manager now and I'm almost at the end of my career, still producing though. Now I'm coming back and trying to impart to some of these younger guys and give back to them and make them better.”
Free agent outfielder Nick Markakis and the Atlanta Braves have agreed to a four-year contract, pending a physical. The team announced the move Wednesday night.
The 31-year-old Markakis spent the first nine years of his career with the Baltimore Orioles. This past season, he batted .276 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs. Markakis fills a void left by the recent trade of right fielder Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals. Also, it will surely step up talks on a potential deal for slugger Justin Upton, who is entering the final year of his contract, or perhaps Evan Gattis, who is set to move from catcher to left field if he remains with the Braves.
Right-hander Luke Hochevar and the Kansas City Royals have agreed to a $10 million, two-year deal, a person familiar with the negotiations tells the Associated Press.
Hochevar will make $4.5 million this season and $5.5 million for the 2016 season, the person said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because Hochevar must pass a physical to complete the agreement. Hochevar missed last season after Tommy John surgery. The former No. 1 overall draft pick struggled for years as a starting pitcher, going 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA in his best season. But he was dynamic after shifting to the bullpen and went 5-2 with a 1.92 ERA in 2013.
The Seattle Mariners have traded outfielder Michael Saunders to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for veteran left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ. The deal was completed Wednesday. Toronto expects Saunders to immediately slot in as its left-fielder, potentially taking the Blue Jays out of the running for re-signing outfielder Melky Cabrera. Happ should be an option for Seattle's rotation with veteran Chris Young a free agent. But Happ has thrown out of the bullpen in the past. ..
Right-hander Eddie Gamboa and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a one-year contract that pays him a $525,000 salary in the major leagues and $150,000 in the minors. Gamboa went a combined 5-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 19 games with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. ... The San Diego Padres have agreed to a one-year contract with shortstop Clint Barmes, pending a physical. The move Wednesday comes one day after the Padres declined to tender a contract to shortstop Everth Cabrera, an All-Star in 2013 who has had off-field drug issues. ... The Atlanta Braves have agreed to terms with reliever Jim Johnson on a one-year contract. Johnson, 31, went 5-2 with a 7.09 ERA in a combined 53 1-3 innings last year for Oakland and Detroit. The former Baltimore closer is 23-28 with a 3.57 ERA and 124 saves in his career. ...
The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed pitcher Clayton Richard to a minor league contract and invited him to big league camp. The 31-year-old Richard has a 46-47 career record with the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres. He last pitched in the majors in 2013, going 2-5 with a 7.01 ERA in 12 games with the Padres.