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Expos begin discussions with Vlad Guerrero


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From the Associated Press via ESPN.com:


MONTREAL -- The Montreal Expos have started contract talks with Vladimir Guerrero's agent, hoping to sign the star slugger to a long-term deal before he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.


"We've been in contact with his agent and we have begun negotiations on trying to keep Vladimir Guerrero with the Expos and, hopefully, signing him to a long-term contract," Expos general manager Omar Minaya said Wednesday before the Expos' final home game of the season. "We're exercising the right that we have to have the exclusivity."


Minaya said he spoke to Guerrero's agent, Diego Benz, on Tuesday.


"I've been in contact with him, some small conversations," Minaya said. "But yesterday, I can say that we pretty much got the conversations going."


"I feel really good here," Guerrero said as third base coach Manny Acta translated. "I've been here for seven years and I've never had any problems, on and off the field. I just feel comfortable here. I just want to see what happens now."


He said negotiations were out of his hands.


"They're the ones that handle that," he said. "All I try to do is do my job on the field, and then they handle that off the field."


Guerrero is making $11.5 million this season, the final year of a five-year deal. He recently passed Andre Dawson to become the team's all-time home run leader and is hitting .330 with 25 homers and 79 RBIs this season despite missing most of June and July because of a herniated disc.


He has hit 234 homers in just over seven years with Montreal, connecting for at least 34 in each of the five previous seasons, including a team-record 44 homers in 2000.


Montreal, owned by baseball's 29 other teams, had a payroll of just over $40 million this season, one of the lowest in the majors.


Guerrero hasn't decided whether he would test the free agent market, saying that he would leave that until after the season. If he files for free agency, he is expected to be one of the most sought-after players in a group that could include Gary Sheffield, Javy Lopez, Kevin Millwood and Miguel Tejada.


"I have no preferences," Guerrero said. "I've played everywhere and I feel good everywhere I go."


I'll be shocked if they get it done, but it's good to see they're trying.

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