Slugger could test free agent market

Updated: October 28, 2003, 11:08 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams is just waiting for Frank Thomas to make up his mind.

The slugger has until Thursday to decide whether he wants to exercise a $6 million contract option or void the deal altogether. His decision will affect what other moves Williams can make -- and how much money he'll have to make them -- this offseason.

"I won't deny that I've had conversations with Frank and (agent Arn Tellem), but they've both asked that these conversations be private and I'll adhere to that request," Williams said Tuesday.

"The only thing I know at this particular junction is Thursday is coming up. More clarity will be given to all of us."

Thomas tested the free agent market for the first time in his career last year after the White Sox invoked a clause in his contract that allowed them to defer most of his $10 million salary.

The two-time AL MVP wound up re-signing with the only team he's ever played for, agreeing to a one-year deal with three mutual options that guaranteed him $22.5 million.

He has a $6 million option for next season, one for $8 million in 2005 and another for $10 million in 2006, a year that has a $3.5 million club buyout attached to it. He also got the right to void the deal after this year.

Though Thomas has said he wants to finish his career in Chicago, his big numbers this season might earn him more money as a free agent. He hit .267, his highest average since 2000, with 42 homers and 105 RBIs.

Tellem did not return a phone call Tuesday.

If Thomas decides not to return to the White Sox, it would free up more money for Williams to play with this offseason. One person who probably won't get that money is right-hander Bartolo Colon.

Colon filed for free agency Monday after rejecting a three-year offer believed to be worth $36 million. Though his agent said Colon hasn't ruled out coming back to Chicago, Williams said he has to start looking at other options.

"At this juncture, we have to prepare for a 2004 season without him," Williams said. "I'm absolutely disappointed. ... He's a good fit for our club. Hey, we gave it a shot. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it done."

Williams is also still trying to hire a new manager to replace Jerry Manuel, who was fired Sept. 29 after the White Sox dropped 10 of their last 15 games to finish behind Minnesota in the AL Central.

Williams said then he hoped to have someone in place before the team's organizational meetings begin Nov. 6. He declined to comment on the search Tuesday, but former Toronto manager Cito Gaston, Florida third base coach Ozzie Guillen and former Phillies manager Terry Francona are believed to be candidates.

"I could use six more arms to make an even eight," Williams said of the busy offseason. "You've got a lot of balls in the air, but at the same time they're in a context of the plan. You kind of go down the checklist. The next item on the list is Thursday, and once clarity is brought about by Frank's decision, then we can move on to the next thing."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press