11/22/07 5:23 AM ET
A marriage made in heaven
Hunter agrees to five-year contract with Angels
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
The signing was announced by new Angels general manager Tony Reagins. Although terms were not disclosed, The Associated Press reported that the deal is worth $90 million.
"These guys shocked me," Hunter said of a deal that came quickly together in the past few days. "I wanted to play with these guys. For me, they were one of the teams I was looking at, but I didn't know if they were looking at me.
"We shocked the world. Now I'm an Angel. I'm going to hopefully finish my career as a Halo, and hopefully get about three [World Series] rings out of this thing."
Among those left in the wake were the Texas Rangers, Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals. Hunter said there had been no contract discussions with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were also rumored to be in the hunt for his services.
The team he played with for nine full seasons, the Minnesota Twins, didn't get close, Hunter said, adding, "I tried to, but it didn't work out. That's the team I grew up with, but it's going in another direction."
Hunter, 32, claimed his seventh consecutive Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2007, batting .287 with 28 homers and a career-high 107 RBIs while playing 160 games. He made the American League All-Star team for the second time in his career and finished 15th in the AL MVP Award balloting.
"I've said in the past, we're going to pursue every opportunity to make our club better," Reagins said. "This was an opportunity I wanted, and I had the support of people around me and I got aggressive. I spoke with Torii's representative, [agent Larry Reynolds], and it came together pretty quickly. We spoke over the last couple days."
Reagins has been actively attempting to add another big bat to the lineup, with most of the attention focused on young Marlins slugger Miguel Cabrera in the wake of Monday's deal which sent shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox for starting pitcher Jon Garland.
"No, this doesn't have any bearing on any other moves," Reagins said. "We're still looking at our club to see if we can improve. I like our club today. If Opening Day started tomorrow, I'd be ready to go."
The Angels' new center fielder sounded like he was ready to take the field on Thanksgiving, especially in his new home park.
"It's been pretty good to me over the years," Hunter said of Angel Stadium. "It's the energy, playing outside, on that good grass [as opposed to Minnesota's artificial turf]. Fans show up. It's loud, electrifying. If you can't get pumped up to play in Anaheim, you need to get your mind evaluated.
"I've been stomping up and down with my family. Little Torii Jr., [one of his three children], is ready with his Angel gear.
"These guys really showed me they're trying to win. Anaheim, you know, they're going to try to win every year. I've always admired the way they play."
The Angels signed Gary Matthews Jr. to a five-year deal last offseason to play center field, and he responded with a solid year before injuries took a late-season toll.
In addition to Hunter and Matthews, the Angels also have Garret Anderson, Vladimir Guerrero, Juan Rivera and Reggie Willits in a loaded outfield.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Hunter would be the regular center fielder, with Matthews providing depth at all three outfield spots. Anderson and Guerrero are expected to spend more time in the designated-hitter role in 2008, giving Matthews plenty of opportunities to play left and right.
"We have a lot of different options," Scioscia said. "One thing we know is Torii is going to be in center. Gary will have no problem absorbing the corners and playing center if Torii needs a day. Vlad and Garret will see more DH days.
"The bottom line is keeping those four bats together as much as possible."
Hunter was ecstatic about the prospect of joining that star-studded outfield.
"Yes, definitely," he said, when asked if it's potentially the best unit he's been part of in his Major League career. "Garret Anderson, Gary Matthews Jr., Vladimir Guerrero. Man!
"Vladimir Guerrero is one of my favorite players. I get a chance to play next to him and hit in the same lineup with the guy. I get to see Vladimir Guerrero play every day, and Garret Anderson -- I respect his game. I'll get to watch him, learn every day. ... It's going to be a lot of fun."
Hunter has the versatility to hit anywhere in the lineup. He had 18 stolen bases in 2007 while putting together a career-best 23-game hitting streak.
"I'm that guy who can change the game," Hunter said. "I'm a little bit of everything. I wouldn't say I'm the big bat -- Vladimir is the big bat. I'm a player, not a hitter."
A four-sport high school star in Pine Bluff, Ark., Hunter is a .271 career hitter with 192 homers and 711 RBIs in 1,234 games. He is regarded as an upbeat, positive clubhouse presence, widely respected throughout the game for his dedication to the game.
In 21 postseason games with the Twins, Hunter has batted .300 with three homers and eight RBIs.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.