Twins agree to terms with third baseman Batista

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins and third baseman Tony
Batista agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million contract Thursday,
filling another need in their lineup.
A two-time major league All-Star, Batista played last season in
Japan, batting .263 with 27 homers and 90 RBI in 559 at-bats for
Fukuoka in the Pacific League. The 32-year-old Batista has
eight-plus years of big league experience, last playing with the
Montreal Expos in 2004.
"It was a natural for us and it fit with him," Twins general
manager Terry Ryan said.
Batista has a career average of .251 with 214 homers, also
playing for Oakland, Arizona, Toronto and Baltimore. His best
season came in 2000, when he hit .263 with 41 homers, 114 RBI and
96 runs in 620 at-bats for the Blue Jays.
He should give power-starved Minnesota a reliable, if
strikeout-prone, hitter in the middle of the lineup. In the field,
he's considered to have a good arm with a good glove but not great
Batista's deal is not guaranteed. If he's released before
opening day, he would get only 30 or 45 days of termination pay --
not the full $1.25 million.
Batista recently became a free agent after initially signing a
$15 million, two-year contract with Fukuoka that included a $5
million bonus and annual salaries of $5 million. When he signed
last January, Batista said Tampa Bay, Houston and Detroit showed
interest in him but none came close to matching Fukuoka's offer.
His deal with the Twins includes performance bonuses based on
plate appearances -- $100,000 for 400, $125,000 for 450, 475 or 525,
and $150,000 for 550.
Also, the Twins agreed to terms with catcher Shawn Wooten on a
minor league deal. Wooten also has experience as a first baseman,
third baseman and designated hitter, spending three-plus seasons in
the majors with the Angels, Phillies and Red Sox while compiling a
.272 career average in 669 at-bats.
He played one game for Boston last year. He batted .267 for
Triple-A Pawtucket with 20 doubles, 17 homers and 60 RBI in 427
If added to the 40-man roster, Wooten would get a contract
paying him at an annual rate of $450,000 in the major leagues.
Minnesota's main offseason objective was to upgrade the lineup,
and the acquisition of second baseman Luis Castillo -- from the
Florida Marlins earlier this month for a pair of minor league
pitchers -- and now Batista has been a decent start. Both positions
were big problems last season.
"You grind away here and sometimes things work and sometimes
you find a mix and a match," Ryan said. "So far, you're doing
what you'd hope you would do."