WASHINGTON -- The Expos made their first big splash since
announcing their move to Washington, agreeing Tuesday to a $6.2
million, two-year contract with third baseman Vinny Castilla and a
$16.8 million, four-year deal with shortstop Cristian Guzman.
"The nice things about this is that two big holes on the left
side of the infield are filled," manager Frank Robinson said. "It
was nice to go out and fill those holes in a short period of time
with quality players."
Castilla, 37, hit .271 with 35 homers and an NL-leading 131 RBI last season for Colorado, the best season for the two-time All-Star
since he was with the Rockies in 1990s. Castilla also has played
for Atlanta, Houston and Tampa Bay, and has 303 career home runs.
Guzman, a 26-year-old switch-hitter, batted .274 last season
with eight homers, 46 RBI and 10 steals, and he led AL shortstops
with a .983 fielding percentage.
"I think he did quite well," said Minnesota general manager
Terry Ryan, who spoke with Guzman's agent, Stan King, this week but
did not make a formal offer. "I can't hardly blame him for taking
that. This is certainly something that we weren't going to be able
to compete with."
The signings were the first major moves by Jim Bowden, hired as
general manager on Nov. 2 to replace Omar Minaya, who became GM of
the New York Mets. Bowden said he hasn't been told how much money
he can spend by the commissioner' office, which is operating the
team until it is sold.
"We do not have a budget, but we're trying to send this
franchise in the right direction," Bowden said. "We couldn't wait
to make these moves. We wanted to make sure we had a shortstop with
his prime years ahead of him. ... If you have to cut in other
areas, you cut in other areas. But we feel those two players will
fit into our budget."
Castilla will receive $3 million in 2005 and $3.2 million in
2006. His signing signals that the Expos have given up on keeping
their sole marquee free agent, third baseman Tony Batista, who hit
32 home runs with 110 RBI last season.
Castilla's agent, Eric Goldschmidt, said Castilla wanted to stay in
the National League and avoid the top-heavy Central Division.
Goldschmidt also was impressed with Bowden's plans to turn the
Expos around quickly.
"I know Jim is an aggressive guy," Goldschmidt said. "And I
know he'll improve the club greatly."
"They made an offer to us that was not in our ballpark in
length or in dollars," Bowden said.
Bowden got a similar response when pursuing Corey Koskie,
Guzman's teammate with the Twins, so he worked the deal with
Castilla, who declined a $2.1 million mutual option with Colorado.
Castilla's signing also met with approval from Robinson, who
wanted some veteran clubhouse leadership for a young roster.
"That's very important for me," Robinson said. "You have to
have a presence in the clubhouse. It just can't be management and
The Twins declined a $5.25 million option on Guzman's contract
for 2005, and he will receive $4.2 million in each of the next four
Guzman had been plagued by injuries since becoming an All-Star
in 2001, but he rebounded this year with his most consistent
"I'm sad. He's done very well for this organization," Twins
manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We're going to miss him dearly.
There's not much we can do about it."
Baseball owners announced the Expos' move on Sept. 29 and are
set to approve the relocation Thursday. The deal is subject to the
District of Columbia government enacting funding by Dec. 31 for a
The Expos are expected to be renamed by the commissioner's
office before the end of the year. The franchise is owned by the
other 29 teams, although baseball recently began the process of
selling the team by soliciting feelers from potential buyers.