November 12, 2002 at 11:25 PM EST - Updated June 18 at 11:14 AM
By JOSH DUBOW, AP Sports Writer
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - While baseball's big spenders are looking to save money for a change, the usually low-budget Philadelphia Phillies are ready to spend.
The Phillies started off the free-agent season Tuesday by making offers to Jim Thome, Tom Glavine and David Bell. The three offers are believed to be worth more than $100 million.
GM Ed Wade didn't wait long, e-mailing an offer to Thome's agent, Pat Rooney, at 12:01 a.m. EST -- the first possible minute allowed. He also met with Glavine's agent, Gregg Clifton, and talked directly to Bell on Tuesday.
"I'd like to get three voice mail messages tomorrow saying yes," Wade said from the GM meetings. "But I'm not going to bank on it."
That's because some players are waiting to see if more teams will join bidding.
Glavine is waiting to visit the cities of the teams that are interested in him. The New York Yankees, Mets, Phillies and Texas have contacted Clifton.
For now, most of the big spenders are interested in cutting payroll. The Yankees, Mets, Rangers and Colorado would like to dump salaries before making moves. Atlanta is just hoping to be able to hold on to one of its free-agent aces -- Glavine and Greg Maddux.
"Our payroll will be lower next year," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. "I don't know if it will be via trade or the free-agent market or a combination of the two. How we're going to do it, I'm not sure. But we will do it."
The Yankees would like to trade Raul Mondesi, Rondell White or Sterling Hitchcock to free up money. But they won't hesitate to make a run at Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui. Cashman and three Yankees officials will travel to Japan later this week.
The Phillies aren't waiting.
They are believed to have offered Thome (pictured, above) $75 million for five years, at least $10 million a year for three years to Glavine and a three-year deal for Bell, who hired Tom Reich and Adam Katz as his agents this week.
Wade, who would only characterize the offers as "significant, sincere and sufficient," isn't expecting a quick response.
"This is an important decision for the players," he said. "They all have emotional and other ties with their old clubs. We remain hopeful this will be resolved in our favor."
The Indians offered Thome a contract that is worth about $45 million over four years and are waiting to hear back from Rooney.
"The ball is in their court," GM Mark Shapiro said.
Part of the reason for the slow movement is a new labor deal that increases revenue sharing and places a luxury tax on payrolls over $117 million next season.
Many teams that are usually buyers at this time of year are first looking to free up money.
"I do think that the trade market is probably a little more active early than the free-agent market," Mets GM Steve Phillips said. "Teams are looking to reconfigure or shift money before they delve into the free-agent market."
The Phillies have already done that. They had the 16th-highest payroll last season, at just under $60 million. Wade said that would increase to about $70 million next season.
The Phillies, who will move into a new ballpark in 2004, freed up money when they traded Scott Rolen in July, and Robert Person, Terry Adams and Doug Glanville became free agents after the season.
Despite playing in one of the bigger markets, the Phillies' spending has been hampered by an unfavorable lease at Veterans Stadium.
"We should be between eight and 12 in revenue when the new ballpark opens," Wade said. "We should be there in payroll to. We're getting a head start on using that money."
Coming off a 14th losing season in 16 years, Wade hopes to energize the fan base. The Phillies averaged just 20,484 fans a game last season -- third worst in the NL.
"If we do these types of things there better be a residual effect besides winning," Wade said. "I believe our fans are excited about this. They don't want to wait until '04."
The moves by the Phillies could put pressure on other teams, especially their rivals in the NL East.
But Phillips said he has to stay within his budget limitations.
"With a new stadium coming and a nice young nucleus, they are more aggressive than usual," he said. "We're going to do what's right for us. We can't be driven by what someone else does."
The GMs also discussed imposing an age requirement from bat boys in response to a scary near-accident involving 3-year-old Darren Baker in the World Series.
Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office, would like to see a requirement that bat boys be at least "double digits." Alderson expected a decision later this winter.
Alderson also went over new policies on uniforms, which prohibit players from tucking their pants into their shoes and from putting individual tributes on their uniforms.
Teams will still be able to put a patch or band on uniforms, as long as all the players wear them. But handwritten tributes, like the "57" many of Darryl Kile's former teammates wrote on their hats, would be banned.
"We're not looking to make all uniforms uniform," Alderson said. "We're looking to eliminate extreme cases."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)