(AP) Outfielder Torii Hunter and the Los Angeles Angels reached a preliminary agreement Wednesday night on a $90 million, five-year contract.
The deal is subject to Hunter passing a physical.
Hunter obviously was surprised the Angels were even interested in him. On Nov. 22, the Angels agreed to a $50 million, five-year deal with Gary Matthews Jr. to play center.
"They shocked me. I didn't think they needed a center fielder," Hunter said in a conference call.
He added with a laugh, "They shocked the world."
The 32-year-old Hunter becomes the hitter the AL West champions sought to protect Vladimir Guerrero in the batting order. Hunter hit .297 with 28 homers and 107 RBIs for the Twins this year and is a seven-time Gold Glove winner.
Although Hunter's arrival would appear to make Matthews the odd man out in an outfield with Guerrero in right and Garret Anderson in left, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it gives him more opportunity to use Guerrero and Anderson to DH.
"Torii is going to be in center field virtually every day. Gary will be in the outfield almost every day, so the other two guys will split up the DH," Scioscia said. "We want all four of those bats in the lineup."
Matthews was in New York this month to meet with baseball officials and discuss allegations that he received human grown hormone. He was sent HGH in 2004 from a pharmacy being investigated for illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, The Times Union of Albany, N.Y., reported last winter. Matthews has denied using HGH, which was not banned by baseball for players with major league contracts until 2005.
New general manager Tony Reagins said he has no indications that Matthews might be suspended. Acquiring Hunter could lead to trading Matthews - perhaps to the Baltimore Orioles for shortstop Miguel Tejada.
Two days earlier, the Angels traded Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Jon Garland.
Reagins, who took over from Bill Stoneman after the season, first contacted Hunter's agent, Larry Reynolds, this week.
"They came in trying to get something done in a hurry and it worked out," Reynolds said.
Hunter recalled when the Angels eliminated his Minnesota Twins in the 2002 AL playoffs en route to the World Series title.
"I watched the Angels go to work on us. They play the game the right way. ... If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
With Hunter gone, the low-budget Twins' attention turns to two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. His contract expires after the 2008 season, and other teams think Minnesota will make him available if he doesn't agree to an extension.
Hunter said he also had negotiated seriously with the Texas Rangers, but he thought they were a year or two from contending. The Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals also were interested.
Staying with the Twins wasn't a real option. "Sometimes it's time to move on," Hunter said. "Sometimes your welcome is gone."