|Friday, December 6
Thomas, White Sox agree to one-year deal with options
CHICAGO -- Frank Thomas will stay in Chicago after all, agreeing with the White Sox on a one-year contract with three mutual options Friday that guarantees the slugger $22.5 million.
Thomas had tested the free-agent market for the first time in his career after the White Sox invoked a contract clause that allowed them to defer most of his $10 million salary.
But with the market tighter than in recent years and the luxury tax looming, there was limited interest in the two-time MVP. Agent Arn Tellem said he spoke with five teams about Thomas, and negotiations went "fairly far" with three of them.
In the end, though, Thomas decided he'd rather stay with the only team he's known. His close relationship with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf also was a factor, Tellem said.
"He did not want to lose that," Tellem said. "There's a real value to Frank of hopefully being able to complete his career with the White Sox. I think it means a lot that he could go into the Hall of Fame having played his whole career with one team. That's a goal of his."
He liked the security the White Sox offered, too. Under the new contract, Thomas could make more than $36 million if he becomes a top producer again.
He gets $5 million in 2003. He can then exercise options for $6 million in 2004, $8 million in 2005 and $10 million in 2006, a year that has a $3.5 million club buyout attached to it.
If Thomas declines his options, Chicago has options at $8 million in 2004, $11 million in 2005 and $12 million in 2006.
Thomas also gets the right to void the deal after the 2003 season, and Chicago is loaning him $1 million.
In addition, he gets bonuses of up to $2 million for finishing in the top 10 of most valuable player voting.
"There are ways he could come out better or very close to what he was going to make under the original contract," Tellem said. "The key element is he does have security. Plus he does have the ability to have another look at this."
Thomas signed a contract in 1997 that was to pay him $9,927,000 in each of the next four seasons, including $3,827,000 deferred with 7.73 percent compounded interest.
But because he didn't make the All-Star team, didn't finish among the top 10 in MVP voting and didn't win a Silver Slugger this season, the White Sox invoked what's called the "diminished skills" clause, allowing them to cut his upfront salary.
Chicago could have paid him as little as $250,000 plus $10,125,000 deferred over 10 years without interest.
"We have never lost sight of what Frank Thomas has meant to this organization over the past 13 seasons and are pleased to have reached this agreement," Reinsdorf said.
"Our intent throughout this process was always to treat Frank with the respect he deserves, both professionally and financially."
Thomas signed his old contract Sept. 30, 1997, after winning the AL batting title. He'd hit at least 20 home runs with a .300 average and 100 walks, 100 runs and 100 RBI for seven consecutive seasons.
He's the White Sox leader in home runs (376) and RBI (1,285).
But he missed most of the 2001 season after tearing a triceps muscle and struggled the first half of 2002. He was hitting just .239 before the All-Star break, the lowest average of his career.
He did pick up his game in the final month, finishing the season with a .252 average, 25 home runs and 92 RBI.
"Frank is working very hard to get himself in the best shape to come back and really be an integral force in the lineup, not only for next year but for many years to come," Tellem said. "And to show once more that he is one of the premier hitters of our generation.
"Believe me, those are things that are motivating him to work very hard in the offseason."
Thomas also knows he has to be more of a team player. He caused a controversy before the All-Star break when, unhappy about being benched, he skipped a pregame stretching session. And he didn't return phone calls from general manager Kenny Williams after the White Sox invoked the "diminished skills" clause.
But Williams said he spoke with Thomas on Friday and they had a good discussion.
"I think where Frank is right now, he's gone through some struggles," Williams said. "You're talking about a guy that's got a tremendous amount of pride. He told me today that he has a renewed dedication, a renewed respect for the game and the ability that it takes to play this game at a high level.
"I expect a carry-over from the Frank we saw in September to next year."