Montreal Expos General Manager Omar Minaya, who is widely credited with keeping the team competitive under difficult, unprecedented circumstances the past three seasons, has left the franchise to accept a front-office position with the New York Mets. The news comes on the same day city officials in Washington expect to announce that the Expos will move to the District for the 2005 season.

Minaya, 45, was not immediately available for comment. The Expos play their final home game at Montreal's Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night, and finish the season in New York against the Mets this weekend.

The news leaves Washington's potential new team without a general manager as it makes the transition from Montreal amid lingering uncertainty. The team is unlikely to be sold before Opening Day 2005, according to team President Tony Tavares, which means MLB would continue to operate the franchise.

According to multiple baseball sources, former Baltimore Orioles general manager Pat Gillick is a leading candidate to replace Minaya. Gillick, 67, is a special consultant for the Seattle Mariners and also worked with Team Canada's baseball team in the 2004 Athens Games. His career in baseball spans 41 years as a scout and executive.

Minaya will head the Mets' baseball operations, overseeing a department that already includes General Manager Jim Duquette. Minaya and Duquette worked together with the Mets as assistant general managers until Minaya was hired by MLB in 2002 to run the Expos as baseball's first Hispanic general manager.

Under Minaya, the Expos posted winning records of 83-79 in both 2002 and 2003, despite operating under strict MLB-controlled budgets. The team has slipped to a 65-93 record this season, through Tuesday.