10/29/2003 2:00 PM ET
Thomas: WIll he stay or will he go?
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Frank Thomas hit .267 with 42 homers and 105 RBIs in 2003. (Mike Fisher/AP)
CHICAGO -- For almost a decade, Frank Thomas seemed to dictate the success of the Chicago White Sox.
If the power-packed designated hitter/first baseman hit 10 home runs in a month or posted a .400 average over 15 or 20 games, the South Siders had a good chance to win a large portion of those particular contests. It didn't matter as much what the pitchers or surrounding offensive players were producing -- as the third hitter in the order and the top player on the team, Thomas could carry the White Sox for large stretches at a time.
Once again, Thomas carries a major impact on the direction of the White Sox. Despite his offensive resurgence in 2003, this influence is solely based on an off the field contractual decision.
Thomas, 35, has until midnight Thursday -- four days after the conclusion of the World Series -- to decide whether he will accept a $6 million option for 2004. If Thomas declines, the White Sox can exercise an $8 million option to retain Thomas for another season.
Indications are if Thomas declines, so will the White Sox, producing a strong possibility Thomas' 14-year run on the South Side would come to an end. White Sox general manager Kenny Williams wouldn't tip his hand regarding Thomas' ultimate thoughts.
"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 told the Associated Press. "The only thing I know at this particular junction is Thursday is coming up.
"More clarity will be given to all of us," Williams added.
Thomas agreed to a one-year deal with a series of options last season, when the White Sox invoked a clause in his contract that deferred most of his $10 million salary. Thomas has an $8 million option for 2005 and another for $10 million in 2006, with a $3.5 million club buyout. Thomas also was able to void the deal after this year.
During the 2003 campaign, in which Thomas bounced back from two sub-par seasons because of a torn right triceps suffered in 2001 during an early-season game against Seattle, the two-time American League Most Valuable Player knocked out 42 home runs and 105 RBIs. Despite moving more toward a power game and away from his .300 career average, Thomas turned in his 10th season with 100 RBIs and 100 walks.
The native of Columbus, Ga., who currently resides in Las Vegas, spoke about playing five or six more seasons. He also expressed interest in finishing his career with the same team he started, an almost non-existent concept in the days of free agency. Thomas made the point that when players such as Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson can change teams, anything is possible.
"I've been in this city 13 years, and I'm a Chicago guy," Thomas said in early September. "I take pride in that. It's something special. Hopefully, I will finish my career here."
As the White Sox season came to a disappointing finish, Thomas declined to address any requests to talk about his future. He spoke instead about earning the right to explore other options, while maintaining a focus on staying in Chicago.
Bartolo Colon turned down the White Sox' reported three-year, $36 million offer earlier this week, choosing instead to explore free agency. The right-handed hurler's association with the White Sox apparently came to a close after one season, following a 15-13 record with nine complete games and 242 innings pitched.
Williams and the team will move on to Plan B, an option that could include going after free agent hurlers such as Andy Pettitte, Sidney Ponson, Kevin Millwood or even Toronto's Cory Lidle. Thomas' decision, and the $6 million that might go along with it, could help decide if Williams stays at Plan B or moves on to one of his other back-up plans.
As Williams pointed out, some clarity will be achieved Thursday.
We either make ourselves happy or miserable.
The amount of work is the same.