Top free agent Hunter aims to make decision before winter meetings

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Torii Hunter sits down for Thanksgiving
dinner with his extended family, he will of course have much to be
thankful for.

He'll also have a lot to think about.

One of the top free agents left on the market, Hunter will take
the weekend to mull the multiple contract offers he and his agent,
Larry Reynolds, have fielded since the frenzy formally began last

Hunter said Tuesday that his goal is to make a decision next
week on which team to play for, before baseball's winter meetings
on Dec. 3.

Though Hunter declined to identify the finalists, the Chicago White Sox andWhite Sox Texas Rangers are in serious pursuit. Many more clubs
have expressed interest. Hunter's priorities are legitimate World
Series aspirations and a deal of at least five years.

The seven-time Gold Glove center fielder, who hit .287 with 28
homers and 107 RBIs for Minnesota last season, was asked what his
life has been like since filing for free agency on Oct. 29.

"It's a headache. It's definitely a headache," Hunter said
from his home in the Dallas area. "You think you're going to enjoy
free agency, but it's been a headache trying to figure out what you
want to do."

Still, he said, the process is flattering.

"I go out there and I play hard and I play the game the right
away, and it's gratifying that teams see the same thing. It's nice
to be appreciated," Hunter said.

He said he expects to check back with the Twins before signing a
contract with another club. That would give the Twins, the only
team he's ever played for since they drafted him in the first round
in 1993, a chance to make a final offer. General manager Bill Smith
declined to comment on Hunter's status.

Smith added three players to the 40-man roster Tuesday,
right-handed pitcher Bobby Korecky and infielders Matt Macri and
Matt Tolbert, and Minnesota now has 39 players on that protected
list. Free agents don't count against the total. Also, catcher
Chris Heintz was released.

The 28-year-old Korecky went 5-6 with a 3.71 ERA and 35 saves in
66 appearances for Triple-A Rochester last season. Korecky, who had
34 walks and 71 strikeouts in 85 innings, came with Carlos Silva
and Nick Punto in the December 2003 trade that sent pitcher Eric Milton to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Macri, who arrived in August from Colorado in a trade that sent
pitcher Ramon Ortiz to the Rockies, batted .213 in 47 at-bats for
Rochester after hitting .298 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs in 275
at-bats for Double-A Tulsa.
Tolbert batted .293 with six home runs and 53 RBIs in 417
at-bats for Rochester and was selected for the Triple-A All-Star
A third baseman is the biggest need for the Twins, who are
expected to acquire help at that position through a trade or free
agency. Macri and Tolbert, who are both 25, could be darkhorse
candidates for the job, or at least for a utility infield spot.
"It'll be determined in February," Smith said. "They're on
the roster because they've got ability. ... We'll let them come to
spring training, and we'll let it play out and let the front
office, the coaches and the manager decide."