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Huff reportedly agrees to join O's

Huff reportedly agrees to join O's

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BALTIMORE -- The Orioles are zeroing in on their biggest move of the offseason. The Baltimore Sun has reported that the club has reached terms on a three-year contract with free agent Aubrey Huff, who would provide the power bat Baltimore has been searching for all winter.

There was no immediate confirmation from team officials, but the Sun reported that the deal is for three years and $20 million. Huff would need to take a physical next week, and if everything checked out, would be introduced to the public shortly thereafter. If he signs, he's expected to split time between the outfield, first base and designated hitter.

Huff can also play third base, giving manager Sam Perlozzo some flexibility. In all likelihood, the veteran would supplement newly acquired left fielder Jay Payton and spell both DH Jay Gibbons and first baseman Kevin Millar. The 30-year-old's presence would also allow Payton to slide to center field against tough left-handed pitchers.

Huff has spent most of his career in the American League East. He split last season between Tampa Bay and Houston, but the balance of his seven-year career was spent as a Devil Ray. Huff, who has hit at least 20 home runs in five straight seasons, has hit more homers against Baltimore (20) than any other big-league team.

The former University of Miami star will be counted on to provide help against southpaws -- one of Baltimore's main weaknesses -- but for his career, he's traditionally fared better against right-handers. Huff is a .288 hitter with a .350 on-base mark and a .498 slugging percentage against righties, though all three numbers dip against lefties.

The Orioles haven't had two hitters with 30 home runs since the 1996 season, and last year, they didn't have anyone meet that milestone. Shortstop Miguel Tejada was the team leader with 24 homers, and Huff will likely bat behind him next season. Baltimore had previously pursued free agents Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee for that slot.

Both Lee and Soriano signed mega-deals that dwarf the one Huff will reportedly get. Baltimore has been active, though, spending more than $40 million on a bullpen overhaul. The Orioles also traded rookie reliever Chris Britton to the Yankees for starter Jaret Wright and cash considerations and signed Payton to flesh out the outfield depth.

After Huff, Baltimore may be done signing free agents for the winter, but there's still at least one potential deal looming. Last year's Opening Day starter, Rodrigo Lopez, is on the trade block. The Orioles had been shopping him for a power bat, but if the Huff deal becomes official, they might be persuaded to settle for an impact prospect instead. Otherwise, Lopez would move to the bullpen.

The Orioles may also consider signing some of their arbitration eligible players to multi-year extensions. Left-hander Erik Bedard and second baseman Brian Roberts are the most likely candidates, but outfielder Corey Patterson and right-hander Daniel Cabrera could also be extended. Baltimore will start making those decisions shortly after the New Year.

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

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