- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

MONTREAL — Major League Baseball, which has operated the Montreal Expos the past three seasons, likely still will make the personnel and roster decisions for the team that will play at RFK Stadium in 2005, the president of the Expos said last night.

Tony Tavares, the former president of the Anaheim Angels who was hired by baseball to run the Expos after the 29 existing owners bought the team from Jeffrey Loria three years ago, said he doubts the franchise will be sold to new owners in time to make personnel decisions, such as signing free agents, that are often made in November and December to shape next year’s roster.

In fact, Tavares said it is possible that a new ownership group might not take over operation of the Expos until May or June, two to three months into the season.

“I think, realistically, it is not likely that you will see an ownership group in place certainly before the end of the year,” Tavares said. “I don’t know how you do that. You have background checks to do, you have to set up parameters, do due diligence. … It is unrealistic to think it will happen before the end of the year. My own personal guess is somewhere between February at the very best, to May or June.”

That means the team coming to Washington will be forced to operate under the restrictions of MLB, as it has for the past three years in Montreal, though Tavares said he expects the budget for players will be greater than the $37million payroll the Expos had this season.

“One of the things we have to negotiate with Major League Baseball is that we are going to increase our revenues substantially by moving to Washington. I want to get some kind of relationship going with what my payroll is versus what my revenues are, because that will put us in position for evaluations we have to make on free agents in the offseason,” he said. “There is no question we will have to do that before anyone takes over ownership.

“Right after the season there are a whole bunch of decisions facing the team: who do you arbitrate, who do you not arbitrate, who do you tender, who do you not tender, any Rule V free agents that you are interested in,” Tavares said. “You can go on and on with the litany of things that a baseball team does in preparation for next season. We have to do all those things. We don’t have time to wait. I’m going to do this like I have done this for the past three years, in the best interests of the baseball team. What I hope for is that since my revenues are going up, my payroll should be able to go up as well. How much, I don’t know, but that is to be negotiated between me and baseball.

“We don’t have the luxury of waiting,” Tavares said. “We have to do this.”

Baseball officials have indicated the sale of the club will be done through a bidding process. The Washington Baseball Club, led by Fred Malek, is the local ownership group with the exclusivity agreement with the District. But baseball is not bound by that agreement, and other bidders are expected, such as Long Island real estate development Mark Broxmeyer. The Expos could command a price as high as $300million, observers believe.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported late last night that Expos general manager Omar Minaya is leaving Montreal to become the head of baseball operations for the New York Mets.

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