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Expos deal Vazquez to Yanks

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Montreal, QC (Sports Network) - The Montreal announced Thursday that they have traded starting pitcher to the New York . The shipped first baseman , outfielder and pitcher to Montreal in exchange for Vazquez, who is eligible for salary arbitration.

The deal is conditional on players passing physicals.

"I think it was tough to trade a player like a , but going forward I think we have a better opportunity to address some needs going into next year," said general manager Omar Minaya. "We were able to acquire some offense and address some needs in the bullpen."

The , meanwhile, are trying to keep pace with the rival Boston , who signed ace righthander last week. Vazquez will help fill the void in the New York rotation left by ' retirement.

"After the Schilling trade was done with Arizona me and Brian (Cashman, the general manager) were in contact daily," said Minaya.

Vazquez, 27, was 64-68 with a 4.16 earned run average over six seasons with the , including a 13-12 mark and 3.24 ERA in 2003. He has posted no fewer than 179 strikeouts in any of the past four seasons, fanning a career-high 241 for the last season.

The are also trying to re-sign free agent for an uncertain rotation, If Pettitte comes back, as is expected, he and Vazquez will join to form the top three. The remainder of the starting staff could include , , and free agent .

New York was also reportedly interested in free-agent righthander and there has been talk of acquiring righthander from Los Angeles.

It has already been a very busy offseason for New York, which has bolstered a weak bullpen from last year by signing free agents and . is also reportedly close to finalizing a deal.

The are also closing in on a deal with rightfielder . That announcement could come by the end of this week.

New York also recently re-signed third baseman and infielder .

The , meanwhile, are acquiring a pair of 25-year-old youngsters in Johnson and Rivera.

Johnson batted .284 with 14 homers, 47 RBI and a .422 on-base percentage last season, and had posted a career average of .256 in 248 games over three injury-filled seasons for the .

Rivera's experience with the team had been more limited. He appeared in just 88 games over the past three seasons, batting .262 with eight home runs and 32 RBI, including seven homers and 26 RBI in 57 games last season.

Choate, a sidewinding lefthander, failed to pick up a decision in five games for New York and posted a 7.36 ERA last year. Lifetime in the big leagues, he is 3-2 with a 4.43 ERA in 82 relief appearances with the . He was selected by New York in the fifth round of the June 1997 draft out of Florida State University.

"We are getting back three players who do not have a lot of service, and it gives us financial flexibility," Minaya said of the trade.

The deal could free up some money for the to re-sign star outfielder . Minaya said he hasn't been given an exact figure of what his payroll should be for next season. The are owned by the 29 other baseball teams and is run by the commissioner's office.

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