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Monday, December 2
Updated: December 5, 10:54 PM ET
Phillies beat out Indians in pursuit of prized Thome news services

PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Thome, the most coveted hitter in the free-agent market, agreed to a six-year contract offer Monday with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Monday, Dec. 2
Does Jim Thome, all by himself, give the Phillies a great lineup?

Last season the Phillies scored 710 runs, eighth best in the National League. The difference between playing Thome (who is one of the five or six best hitters on Earth) and Travis Lee (who is not) is something like 70 runs. Yes, that's a lot.

But even if the Phillies had scored 780 runs in 2002, they'd have ranked just fourth in the league, behind the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Giants. There are other reasons to be optimistic, though. Pat Burrell is still young. Rookie Marlon Byrd will replace free agent Doug Glanville in center field, which should help. Mike Lieberthal figures to play well again in 2003. And Jimmy Rollins is still a kid who should improve.

Long-term, the Phillies might have to eat a hefty chunk of Thome's contract. But in the short-term, this is a lineup that's going to score a bunch of runs in 2003. And that's half the battle, isn't it?

The club's agreement with the left-handed power hitter is worth as much as $94 million,'s Jayson Stark reported. The guarantee is $85 million, which breaks down to $82 million for six years, plus either a $3 million buyout or a vesting $12-million option for the seventh year.

It is believed the contract contains a full no-trade clause.

For the deal to become final, the 32-year-old first baseman had to pass a physical. The team made the official announcement late Tuesday afternoon.

The Indians, the only team Thome has played for since he was a 13th-round pick in the 1989 amateur draft, were informed of his decision shortly after 2 p.m. ET on Monday.

After getting Cleveland to sweeten its five-year, $60 million offer by adding a sixth-year vesting option late last week, Thome mulled over the teams' offers during a Thanksgiving weekend at his house in Aurora, Ohio.

The Phillies, aggressively trying to improve as they prepare to move into their new ballpark in 2004, had hoped to get an answer from Thome's agent, Pat Rooney, on Sunday night, but they did not hear word until Monday morning.

Thome, 32, is the third slugger since 1996 to leave the Indians as a free agent, following Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez. He hit .304 with 52 homers, 118 RBI, 122 walks and a .445 on-base percentage last season.

Thome has hit at least 30 homers seven straight years and has driven in more than 100 runs in six of the last seven seasons. He is a career .287 hitter with 334 home runs and 927 RBI and owns the Indians' single-season and career home run records.

Thome's arrival signals the end of Travis Lee's time as Philadelphia's starting first baseman. Lee came to the Phillies in 2000 in the trade that sent Curt Schilling to Arizona.

While David Bell, signed to a $17 million, four-year contract on Nov. 24, takes over at third base from All-Star Scott Rolen (traded to St. Louis last summer), Thome replaces Rolen's power in the middle of a lineup that includes Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell.

Thome will be the highest-paid player in Phillies history and he is the most prominent free agent to sign with the team since Pete Rose left Cincinnati after the 1978 season.

The Phillies made Thome their primary free-agent target even before the 2002 season ended. They courted him with a Nov. 7 tour of the city that included a trip to the new ballpark's construction site and concluded with a standing ovation at a Flyers' game in the First Union Center.

The Indians won six division titles and went to the World Series twice during Thome's tenure. The Phillies, meanwhile, are coming off their 14th losing season in 16 years.

Thome began his career as a third baseman, but moved to first when the Indians acquired Matt Williams before the 1997 season. Thome hit 40 homers in 1997, 49 in 2001.

Thome's departure leaves a big hole in the Indians' lineup and another one in the heart of Cleveland fans. He was one of the most popular players in club history, and was recently given the Roberto Clemente Award, presented by the commissioner's office for charity work and community service.

Thome is the third slugger since 1996 to leave the Indians as a free agent, following Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez.

Indians second baseman John McDonald was saddened to hear Thome was likely leaving.

"Coming up in the Indians system, Jimmy was a guy everyone looked up to,'' McDonald said. "I always wanted to play next to him, and I'm just sorry I won't ever get a chance to do that again. I'm happy for Jimmy and his family, but I'm just really sorry for the Indians family.''

Philadelphia also is waiting to hear from free-agent pitcher Tom Glavine. The club has offered the left-hander a $30 million, three-year deal, with a fourth year option that would vest based on innings pitched.

Glavine also has received offers from the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves. He told ESPN's Karl Ravech on Monday he does not expect to make a decision for several days.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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