Third baseman Tony Batista officially filed for free agency yesterday, becoming the most significant member of the new Washington franchise to do so.

Batista, who turns 31 in December, hit just .241 this season, but his 32 home runs tied with Brad Wilkerson for the team lead, and he had a team-high 110 RBI during his only season with the Expos. His on-base percentage was just .272, and he struck out 78 times.

Batista signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Expos last December, but is seeking a multiyear deal this time. The franchise, due to begin play in Washington in April, has already made an offer to Batista.

"We're apart on years and dollars," said assistant general manager Tony Siegle, who was running the baseball operations before GM Jim Bowden was hired on Tuesday.

The Expos, already lacking power in the middle of the lineup, would have to find a reasonably priced power-hitting third basemen should Batista sign elsewhere. Anaheim's Troy Glaus and Colorado's Vinny Castilla are the most notable names already on the market, but both could be out of the Expos' price range.

Prior to joining the Expos, Batista spent the previous five seasons toggling between the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays. He has a .251 career average with 214 homers and 681 RBI.

-- Barry Svrluga