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12/12/07 11:24 PM ET

Twins cut ties with outfielder Tyner

Role player becomes free agent after three years with Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins reduced their number of outfielders by one on Wednesday when they chose not to tender a contract to Jason Tyner.

Tyner, a key reserve outfielder for the Twins over the past three seasons, now becomes a free agent. He hit .287 in 304 at-bats last season with the Twins, and also belted his first Major League home run.

Tyner became expendable after the Twins acquired outfielders Craig Monroe and Delmon Young in separate trades last month. Along with last year's starting outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, the addition of Monroe and Young gives the Twins four players for the two outfield corner positions. Monroe had been thought to possibly be a non-tender candidate, but he took a 20 percent pay cut and signed a one-year contract with the Twins on Tuesday.

Although the Twins are still looking for an everyday center fielder to replace Torii Hunter, who left via free agency last month, Tyner wasn't considered to be a candidate for the spot.

After making $400,000 in 2007, Tyner was set to command a raise through arbitration this coming season. The increase in salary combined with the lack of available playing time in the outfield made it a situation where Tyner just didn't fit into the Twins' plans anymore.

But having to inform Tyner of the news wasn't easy for Twins general manager Bill Smith.

"It was a difficult decision because Jason Tyner is a first-class person and he was a good member of this organization for a few years," Smith said. "We just felt at this time that there just wouldn't be enough at-bats for him. I felt badly about the decision from his perspective, but unfortunately it's one that we had to make."

Wednesday was the deadline for clubs to tender contracts for the 2008 season. The Twins tendered a total of 28 contracts, including five to their remaining arbitration-eligible players: Cuddyer, Kubel, Justin Morneau, Matt Guerrier and Juan Rincon.

In addition to those 28, the Twins currently have nine players already under contract. That includes ace Johan Santana, who has been the talk of baseball since the Twins started listening to offers for him last month.

Hot Stove

Santana, who is set to be a free agent after the '08 season, is expected to be traded before the start of the season. But there is a chance that the club could hold onto him until the July 31 trade deadline.

While the Winter Meetings came and went without a trade for Santana, the Twins have had talks with other clubs involving the two-time Cy Young Award winner this week. So far, though, no deal appears imminent.

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