Because Hunter is a Type-A free agent, the Twins will draw the highest level of compensation for losing him, getting the Angels' 2008 first-round draft pick (No. 27 overall) and a compensation pick between the first and second rounds.
The White Sox and Royals each made offers for about $75 million. Hunter said he was close to a deal with the White Sox at one point, and the Rangers agreed to an option for a sixth year that would have brought their package to $84 million.
Then, the Angels entered with an offer that included a no-trade clause.
"They told me, 'Look, we want you to be our center fielder,'" Hunter said. "And they gave me an amount of money that my momma and all my friends would have slapped me if I turned it down."
Hunter said he's had great respect for how the Angels play the game ever since they defeated the Twins in the 2002 American League Championship Series.
"The money is one part because it blew everybody out of the water," he said. "The other part is they want to win. They play the game the way I like it. The outfield is perfect. The grass is perfect. You can't beat that. The sun is perfect. Every night it's 70 degrees."
Hunter lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Prosper, Texas, so the Rangers offered a chance to play near home. In that respect, the Angels were the next best choice, since they play in the Rangers' division and make three trips to Texas each year.
But Minnesota had become a home for Hunter, too. The Twins made him a first-round draft pick in 1993 and signed him out of high school in Pine Bluff, Ark. He went on to bat .271 with 192 home runs and 711 RBI over parts of 11 seasons with the Twins.
"There's no hard feelings or anything like that," Hunter said. "I wish I could have stayed with the team that I grew up with since I was 17. I wanted to stay with them from Day 1, no matter what people are trying to say that I wanted to leave regardless."
As fate would have it, the Angels open 2008 at the Metrodome on March 31, meaning the next time the Twins play a real game, Hunter will be there -- wearing the opposing uniform.
For the Twins, at least they won't be facing Hunter 18 times a year, as they would have if he would have signed with the White Sox or Royals.
"He joked about that," Smith said. "He said it's probably better for everybody that he's out of the division. And I guess that's probably a good thing for all of us."
Joe Christensen firstname.lastname@example.org