Deal is worth $17 million
"I grew up watching the Blue Jays. Every Canadian kid's dream is to play for a team you grew up watching," the 31-year-old native of Anola, Manitoba, said during a news conference Tuesday. "I remember where I was when Joe Carter hit his home run to win the World Series. This is a real happy day for me and my family."
Koskie hit .251 with 25 homers and 71 RBI last season for the Minnesota Twins and had a .342 on-base percentage.
Eric Hinske, the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year, will be moved from third to first base if he's not traded. Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said Hinske was willing to make the move to first.
"If you can get Corey Koskie, I'll go anywhere," Ricciardi quoted Hinske as saying.
Koskie becomes the first Canadian regular starter on a Canadian major league team since Larry Walker played right field for the Montreal Expos from 1989-94. Toronto's last one was infielder Dave McKay from 1977-79.
"Corey Koskie has been signed as a Toronto Blue Jay because he's a great athlete and a great ballplayer and one that's proven himself as an established first-line player in the major leagues," Blue Jays chief executive Paul Godfrey said.
"He doesn't come here because he's just a Canadian. The fact that he is a Canadian is a bonus to the club that hopefully will spur other young Canadians who aspire to be major league baseball players to know that they have a place in Canada."
Koskie gets a $3 million signing bonus and salaries of $2.5 million in 2005, $5.25 million 2006 and $5.75 million in 2007. Toronto has a $6.5 million option for 2008 with a $500,000 buyout.
Koskie became the third free agent to leave the Twins this offseason, following shortstop Cristian Guzman, who agreed to a $16.8 million, four-year contract with the Washington-bound Expos, and catcher Henry Blanco, who got a $2.7 million, two-year deal from the Chicago Cubs.
That leaves second baseman Luis Rivas as the only starting infielder remaining from the beginning of last season, and his return is not a guarantee. Koskie was one of the few remaining players who came up with the Twins in 1999 as rookies and formed the core of the 2002 team that advanced to the AL championship series after baseball nearly eliminated the franchise before the season.
Minnesota did keep right-hander Brad Radke, who agreed last week to an $18 million, two-year contract.
In Koskie's absence, Michael Cuddyer -- the team's first-round draft pick in 1997 who was used as a backup at several positions last year -- will probably take over at third base. That's unless the Twins would rather have him play second in place of Rivas, in which case a free agent could be brought in or prospect Terry Tiffee might get a look.
Either way, the spotlight will be on the infield this spring -- with first baseman Justin Morneau the only sure thing. Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto, Juan Castro and Augie Ojeda are among the candidates for playing time at shortstop, and Punto could figure into the mix at second also.
On Monday, the Twins lost right-hander Angel Garcia in the Rule 5 draft to Arizona. They selected left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith from Seattle.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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