"I've been in last place basically my whole career, so this is an exciting time for me," Huff said. "I'm looking forward to it."
The Tigers began Monday leading the Chicago White Sox by 2½ games in the AL Central. The last-place Orioles obtained pitcher Brett Jacobson from Detroit and assigned the right-hander to Class A Frederick.
Huff is batting .253 with 13 homers and 72 RBIs. He recently hit his 200th career homer and should fit nicely in a Detroit lineup that ranks 11th in the AL in runs and seventh in home runs.
"He adds another left-handed bat to our ballclub and is a middle-of-the-lineup type hitter," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "We've worked on trying to get a bat for a while."
Huff's contract with Baltimore expires after this season, so Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail decided it was the right time to deal the 32-year-old veteran to a contender.
"I think it has more to do with the status that he's going to be a free agent in six weeks," MacPhail said. "First, you put the player in a situation where he goes to a first-place team in a potential pennant drive. From a purely self-interest standpoint, this is probably the time where you can get a prospect from a club."
With the non-waiver trading deadline passed and little talk of a deal, Huff expected to finish the season in Baltimore.
When he was summoned to manager Dave Trembley's office Monday afternoon, Huff figured it was for a pep talk. Then Huff saw MacPhail in the room and suspected something was up.
"This one kind of hit me out of left field," said Huff, who had mixed feelings about leaving a team finally reaping the benefits of rebuilding through youth.
"This is probably the best young talent I've been around and I've been around some young talent. ... You got an All-Star in Adam Jones, and a superstar in Nick Markakis that nobody knows about," he said. "[Brian] Matusz, [Chris] Tillman, all these young guys coming up. It's a very exciting time here, and Baltimore should have a lot to look forward to."
Huff will be missed in the Orioles lineup, and his teammates will miss his leadership in the clubhouse.
"Huff was well liked by the young players," Trembley said. "He gets to go play in a pennant race and maybe rejuvenate himself offensively, make himself even more attractive in the offseason because he's a free agent. On the other hand, you take a veteran guy like that out of the clubhouse ... there's a lot of young kids in there that he had a very good rapport with."
Huff spoke briefly with Detroit manager Jim Leyland by telephone Monday and said he expects to join the Tigers on Tuesday, when they open a three-game home series against Seattle.
"He can play first, he can play a game at third, he could DH some, and he could play left field some," Dombrowski said. "That'll be something for Jim to decide on a daily basis."
Jacobson was 1-3 with six saves and a 3.74 ERA in 35 games with Class A Lakeland this season.
"He's a hard thrower. We've seen him this year [throw] as hard as 96, but obviously he doesn't stay there," MacPhail said. "We get to add a young player to our inventory that we had interest in and we get Aubrey in a competitive situation. It's just one of those things that made sense to all parties."
Said Dombrowski: "The deepest part of our organization is bullpen, so we were able to deal from depth."
The Orioles didn't immediately replace Huff on their 25-man roster and were prepared to play a man short against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday. With Huff gone, Baltimore will give left fielder-designated hitter Luke Scott an extended look at first base and use up-and-coming Felix Pie more often in left.
During the offseason, the Orioles might decide to keep Scott at first. Or they could re-sign Huff, or go outside the organization for a first baseman.
"That's one of the things that we'll find out over the next six weeks," MacPhail said. "Really, a lot of this stuff is not rocket science. The way you find out is you let them play and the answers become self-evident, not just to us but to everybody -- the fans, the media, our coaching staff, the players. That's one of the beauties of this deal. You may not like what you find out, but at least you're going to know."