Baseball

Four More Nationals Elect to Become Free Agents

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Four more Washington Nationals, headlined by right-hander Esteban Loaiza , filed for free agency yesterday, the second day players were allowed to do so.

Right-hander Tony Armas Jr. , infielder Carlos Baerga and backup catcher Gary Bennett joined Loaiza in officially filing. Outfielder Preston Wilson , reliever Joey Eischen and infielder Deivi Cruz filed on Thursday.

Of those players, the Nationals would most like to re-sign Loaiza, to whom they have already made an offer for two years at $4 million per season. Loaiza is seeking a three-year deal worth $7 million per season. He went 12-10 with a 3.77 ERA in 217 innings in 2005, earning $2.9 million.

Armas's career with the Nationals franchise likely is over. He went 7-7 with a 4.97 ERA but didn't pitch after Sept. 1 because of shoulder inflammation, which eventually required surgery. Armas earned $2.26 million in 2005.

Baerga, who will turn 37 next week, hit .253 in 158 at-bats, largely as a pinch hitter. Baerga, who earned $350,000, likely won't return.

Bennett hit .221 in 68 games backing up Brian Schneider , but GM Jim Bowden wants to pursue a more productive alternative such as Philadelphia's Todd Pratt . Bennett made $750,000 last year.

Also yesterday, right-hander Luis Ayala underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. He should be ready for spring training.

-- Barry Svrluga


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