In April 2003, we wrote about how Omar Minaya, baseball's first Latino general manager, revived Major League Baseball's lame duck franchise, the Montreal Expos. Despite long odds, Minaya parlayed his limited resources and a meager $39 million payroll into a surprise second-place finish in 2002.
In September 2004, the Expos played their final game in Montreal and headed south to Washington, D.C., to become the Washington Nationals. Days later, Minaya was named general manager of the New York Mets, where he had worked for five years before joining the Expos. In contrast to his days in Montreal, Minaya, a native New Yorker, has been a spendthrift in his new role. His first two deals last year were the signings of superstars Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran to contracts worth a combined $172 million. This year, he has already inked top relief pitcher Billy Wagner and traded for slugger Carlos Delgado. That added some $36 million to the team's 2006 payroll, which is expected to top $104 million. That would make it the third highest payroll in all of baseball. "Being with the Mets is totally different than working with the Expos," says Minaya. "Now I'm with a big-market team that has the opportunity to go out and get the best players and pay them well." And though Minaya doesn't mind taking advantage of the Mets' big budget, he says he hasn't totally abandoned the strategies he used in Montreal. "There is still part of me that thinks like an Expo," he says. "I still like to get young, cost-effective players to bring into the mix."