- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006


Alfonso Soriano and his agent met with members of the Washington Nationals’ front office yesterday for the first of what figure to be several contract discussions this offseason.

The talks between the Nationals, Soriano and agent Diego Bentz, were believed to be very preliminary. The 30-year-old outfielder, due to become a free agent, is expected to talk to several teams and probably won’t make a decision for some time.

“I want to have time to clear my mind,” he said last weekend.

Neither Bentz nor Washington general manager Jim Bowden returned phone calls yesterday.

Soriano would be one of the premier free agents on the market this winter after hitting .277 with 46 homers, 95 RBI, 41 stolen bases and 22 outfield assists. After making $10 million in his final season of arbitration eligibility, he could earn a four- or five-year contract worth as much as $75 million.

Meanwhile, the Nationals’ search for a new manager remains in its preliminary stages as well.

Bowden and team president Stan Kasten are coming up with a list of candidates who could be headlined by former Reds, Mariners and Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella and Joe Girardi, who was fired Tuesday by the Marlins.

The Cubs and perhaps Giants also have interest in Girardi, but agent Steve Mandell said yesterday that his client plans to take several days off to be with his family before beginning talks with any clubs.

Mark Zuckerman

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