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Expos Put Top Players On Auction Block, They Carry Big Price Tags

Expos Put Top Players On Auction Block; Lame-Duck Team Will Have To Shed Payroll To Meet 2003 Budget

December 6, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Kitchener-Waterloo Record. All rights reserved. 

Bartolo Colon, Javier Vazquez and Vladimir Guerrero might be available for the right price.

The Montreal Expos have concluded they will have to shed some payroll in 2003 to keep to the budget given them by the commissioner's office.  

Expos general manager Omar Minaya began calling other GMs yesterday, telling them to think about proposals to bring to the winter meetings, which start Dec. 13 in Nashville, Tenn.

Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi indicated yesterday in Toronto that he would have interest in Vazquez, a young starting pitcher, if the Expos were to make him available.

Montreal president Tony Tavares said the team had begun talking about possible trades and about extensions with the agents for Guerrero and Colon, both eligible for free agency after the 2003 season.

"Omar is looking at the landscape right now to see what's out there,'' Tavares said. "You have to look at what all the alternatives are.''

Montreal, sold by Jeffrey Loria to the other 29 teams last winter, is operated by the commissioner's office, which is exploring a possible sale before the 2004 season. The Expos had a $38-million payroll last season, and keeping the same group together probably would result in a $50-million payroll next year, the team estimates.

"We probably can't take on 50,'' Tavares said, "but that doesn't mean we can't be creative about getting additional revenue and reducing expenses.''

Guerrero's salary goes from $8 million in 2002 to $11.5 million next year, Colon's salary jumps from $4.8 million to $8.25 million and second baseman Jose Vidro's increases from $4 million to $5.5 million. Vazquez,who made $4,775,000, is eligible for salary arbitration.

Montreal, whose attendance is among the lowest in the major leagues, figures it will increase revenue by shifting 22 home games from Olympic Stadium to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"You've seen a lot of creative deals out there,'' Tavares said. "We're looking to do that out of necessity, not out of choice. This year we're revenue challenged, but we can take on more in the future.''

Minaya declined comment, and commissioner Bud Selig didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.

"We don't know exactly which way this Rubik's cube is going to spin,'' Tavares said.

Expos Players Carry Big Price Tags

By T.R. Sullivan

December 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Star-Telegram. All rights reserved. 

Montreal Expos general manager Omar Minaya might be the most popular executive in baseball right now. He's also the busiest, and no other general manager will be so severely tested this winter, especially at the winter meetings that start Friday in Nashville.

The Rangers must decide if they want to tempt him with third baseman Hank Blalock and pitchers Colby Lewis and Joaquin Benoit.

That's what major-league officials said the Rangers must be willing to do if they're going to be major players in the Expos' winter fire sale. All indications are the Expos will have to trade at least a couple of their best and most expensive players in order to meet the payroll mandated by Major League Baseball.

The Expos, who are owned jointly by the other 29 teams, probably need about $60 million to keep together a young and talented team that went 83-79, finishing second in the National League East. But their budget is reported to be no more than $45 million.

That means the Expos must entertain offers for some of the best young talent in baseball, including pitchers Bartolo Colon, Javier Vazquez and Tony Armas Jr.; second baseman Jose Vidro and right fielder Vladimir Guerrero.

For Guerrero, who will be only 27 in February and might be the best all-around outfielder in the game, the Expos might demand another team's entire farm system.

The Rangers won't go after Guerrero, who can be a free agent after next season, but they would love a shot at one of those young pitchers. But Minaya is not going to let anybody get away without getting considerable young talent in return.

"It could end up being very expensive as far as the young players you give up and the salary you take on in return," Rangers general manager John Hart said. "Obviously, we're staying close to the situation. If the right situation presented itself, ownership would have to make a decision."

The sad thing is that if Minaya had a $75 million payroll to supplement that core of talent and could convince the right free agents to come to Montreal, then he would have a team that would blow by the rest of that division.

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