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Tuesday, October 15
Updated: October 16, 8:58 AM ET
Thomas might become free agent after contract shrinks

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox invoked a contract clause that drastically reduces Frank Thomas' salary, clearing the way for the two-time MVP to become a free agent.

The White Sox sent Thomas a letter on Oct. 6 telling him they were invoking a "diminished skills'' clause in his contract, a lawyer with knowledge of the talks said Tuesday on condition of anonymity. That clause would reduce his base pay to $250,000, and defer most of his nearly $10 million salary.

Thomas' contract says he had seven days following the notification to choose whether to become a free agent, although the sides have discussed extending that deadline, possibly to the end of this week.

Arn Tellem and Frank Bumstead, Thomas' agents, were not immediately available for comment. White Sox general manager Kenny Williams could not be reached.

Thomas said last month he intends to stay with the White Sox, with whom he's spent his entire career.

"I expect to be back next year, fully,'' he said after the last game of the season at Comiskey Park.

Thomas' contract calls for him to be paid $9,927,000 in each of the next four seasons, including $3,827,000 deferred with interest. But because he didn't make the All-Star team and isn't going to finish among the top 10 in MVP voting or win a Silver Slugger this season, the White Sox can cut his salary.

They would then have to pay him only $250,000 plus $10,125,000 deferred over 10 years without interest.

Thomas can choose to terminate the contract and become a free agent. If he does, he would then have 45 days to explore the market or return to the White Sox contract.

The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that the White Sox intended to invoke the "diminished skills'' clause.

Thomas signed the 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 RBIs for seven straight seasons.

He was runner-up for the AL MVP in 2000 after hitting .328 and reaching career highs with 43 homers and 143 RBIs. He also led the White Sox to the AL Central title.

But he missed most of last season after tearing a triceps and was batting just .239 before the All-Star break, the lowest average of his career.

He was also the center of controversy just before the All-Star break when, unhappy about being benched, he skipped a pregame stretching session.

But he picked up his game in the final month, and finished the season with a .252 average, 28 home runs and 92 RBIs.

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