BALTIMORE (AP) – Aubrey Huff has reached a preliminary agreement on a three-year, $20 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles, who hope the versatile free agent can add punch to a lineup that ranked 11th in the AL in home runs last season.

The agreement was secured over the weekend, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Orioles have not yet announced the deal. The contract will be finalized if Huff passes a physical, which will likely be administered this week in Baltimore.

Huff, 30, can play first base, third base and both corner spots in the outfield. But his value to the Orioles is his bat: Huff hit 21 homers last season with Tampa Bay and Houston, and averaged 27 from 2002-05 with the Devil Rays.

Baltimore hit only 164 homers last season, led by Miguel Tejada (24) and Ramon Hernandez (23). No other player hit more than 16.

Huff is a .285 career hitter with 141 homers and 487 RBIs. In 48 career games at Camden Yards, he’s hit eight homers and driven in 29 runs.

His best season was in 2003, when he hit 34 home runs and had 107 RBIs in 162 games with the Devil Rays. He is one of five active major leaguers who have at least 20 homers and 25 doubles in each of the past five seasons.

Huff is expected to join an outfield that this winter was supplemented by the addition of free agent Jay Payton, who batted .296 with 10 homers and 59 RBIs in 142 games with Oakland last season.

The agreement with Huff was first reported by The (Baltimore) Sun.

AP-ES-12-31-06 1355EST

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