Mets, Glavine agree to one-year deal
Veteran decides to come back to New York instead of Atlanta
NEW YORK -- In the end, all the waiting proved worthwhile for the Mets. Ultimately, their patience paid off, because it was that patience -- their willingness to sit on their hands while Tom Glavine sat on the fence -- that played into the veteran's decision to re-sign with them and not return to the Braves.The Mets essentially left Glavine alone after the premature end of their season, affording him time to do the free-agent dance of indecision.
"I know they were waiting for an answer. I knew that I was holding them up," Glavine said on Friday. "But they were true to their word. They gave me as much time as I needed. They never pressured me, and I appreciate that."In a way, the Braves left him alone, too. Unable to clear payroll to fit Glavine's 2007 salary, they made no offer to the pitcher who had been such a prominent figure in their run of success from 1991-2002. And since Glavine wanted to be true to the word he gave the Mets -- that he would make his decision before the Winter Meetings -- he couldn't wait for the possibility of an offer from his "home team." Instead, he agreed to sign a one-year contract worth $10.5 million that could earn almost as much in 2008 should he choose to extend his career, and, by doing so, assured himself of another season of personal inconvenience, emotional hardship and the New York lifestyle he has come to embrace.
"After four years," Glavine said, "it's grown on me."The Mets, meanwhile, accomplished another phase of their starting-rotation restoration. First, Orlando Hernandez re-signed. Now, Glavine, the soon-to-be 41-year-old pitcher who tied for the team lead with 15 victories, is back as well. His return doesn't mean the Mets won't pursue another proven pitcher, but it reduces the chance they will pursue Barry Zito, who is generally regarded as the most appealing -- and most expensive -- pitcher among the free agents. General manager Omar Minaya had previously indicated the Mets would have more work to do this offseason if Glavine didn't return.
"I think it's more likely we'd go after a free agent if Tom doesn't come back," Minaya said on Thursday. "If he comes back, I think we can do what we need to do by trading."By the time Minaya spoke, Glavine and his wife, Chris, had made their decision to return to the Mets. That decision came on Wednesday. With no offer forthcoming from the Braves and his own self-imposed deadline approaching, Glavine had no option even if he wanted to return to Braves. So, to some degree, all the soul searching and sweating proved unneeded. But he didn't know his scenario would evolve as it did, so he did sweat it.
The relative quality of the two teams he considered was a factor. A well-heeled pitcher 10 career victories short of 300 thinks differently than a free agent pursuing a payday.
"I wasn't coming back [to the Braves] for free," Glavine said.The greatest consideration was his wife and children and the time with them lost by re-signing with the Mets or gained by returning to the Braves. In early November, he leaned toward the Braves.
"When I got into the routine, I liked it," he said on Friday, mentioning soccer and Little League and hockey.
When he filed for free agency on Nov. 9, he said, "I'm trying not to be overly influenced by how much I'm enjoying being home."
Those words were a strong indication of how conflicted he was. They sent an ominous message to the Mets, as if they were a precursor to "see you later."But the Mets didn't react to those words. With the exception of a few conversations, they kept their distance. "They're showing an incredible amount of class," his agent, Gregg Clifton, said on Wednesday, "because at the end of the day, they have allowed him to do everything he asked to, which was to go home, to get back into the normal family mode and give him an opportunity to really think this thing through. I think it's working to their advantage, to be honest with you." "When did it change? How did it change? I don't know," Glavine said of his about-face.
Part of it was his realization that even had he returned to the Braves, he still would have been away for 81 games. And the home-game schedule wouldn't allow for many nights at home. Moreover, the children enjoy their summer home in Connecticut.And, yes, the Mets' patience appealed to and impressed him. Glavine embraced the "value of feeling appreciated and respected." He didn't say that the Braves didn't convey the same sense, but he didn't say they did. "Nothing materialized" is what he did say. For whatever reason, they didn't compete. "I'm sure at some point in time they would have made an offer," he said.
But the Braves ran out of time. Glavine's deadline did them in. The Mets stood by their word and didn't push it, and Glavine stood by his word and gave the Mets an answer before the Winter Meetings.Moreover, it was the answer they wanted. "We very much wanted Tom back to win his 300," said COO Jeff Wilpon. "You don't want to lose a player who gives you so much beyond the winning. We were prepared to lose him, but it never got to the point where we thought we would. I'm glad it didn't." * * * Glavine's contract provides him a $6 million option for 2008 that vests if he pitches 160 innings next season. The 2008 salary increases by $1 million for each additional 10 innings beyond 160 -- he pitched 198 in 2006. But the maximum he can earn is $10 million.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporter Mark Bowman contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.