|Thursday, November 7
Updated: November 8, 11:19 AM ET
Phillies give free agent Thome the royal treatment
PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Thome walked into Philadelphia's clubhouse and saw a Phillies jersey with his name and No. 25 hanging in one of the lockers.
The Phillies hope to convince Thome he should wear that uniform next season.
Thome, who hit a club-record 52 homers for the Cleveland Indians this season, met with the Phillies on Thursday. He was set to leave Philadelphia on Friday, but Phillies general manager Ed Wade said he will offer Thome a contract Tuesday -- the first day teams are allowed to discuss money with free agents from other clubs.
Thome is the most coveted hitter in this winter's free agent market, and it's believed the Phillies will offer him about $15 million per season over four or five years.
''It's going to be a long process,'' Thome said. ''We're going to look at a lot of different angles. Everybody knows my ties in Cleveland, but I wouldn't be here if I wasn't interested.''
Thome watched a video presentation of the Phillies' new stadium that's set to open in 2004, toured the stadium site, checked out the turf at Veterans Stadium, met privately with Phillies manger Larry Bowa and, of course, ate a cheesesteak for lunch.
Thome, who was joined by his wife, Andrea, and agent, Pat Rooney, was expected to visit neighborhoods where he could potentially live later in the afternoon.
When he went back outside after watching the video, a group of about 50 electricians greeted Thome with cheers and a sign saying they want him to come to the Phillies.
''I heard a lot of great things about Philadelphia,'' he said. ''You saw what the people did out there and that was heartwarming. It's going to be a tough decision.''
Thome attended the Philadelphia Flyers NHL game Thursday night and Flyers fans Thome a standing ovation when he was introduced midway through the second period.
The Phillies, with money to spend for the first time in years, have made signing Thome their top priority. He would fill the void created by the departure of third baseman Scott Rolen, traded to St. Louis in July.
Thome hit .304 with 118 RBI, 122 walks and had a .445 on-base percentage this season. He has hit at least 30 homers seven straight years and has driven in more than 100 runs in six of the last seven seasons.
Wade said adding Thome would put the Phillies ''in position where we feel we can compete with anybody in baseball.''
But Thome clearly remains loyal to the Indians, where he has spent his entire career since he was a 13th-round pick in the 1989 draft.
The Indians, who have won six division titles and been to the World Series twice during Thome's tenure, met with him and his agent last Thursday. Cleveland is prepared to make Thome the highest-paid player in club history, but reportedly offered him $11 million per season, lower than what the Phillies might give him.
''He's been in Cleveland his whole career and if he does leave, he has to make the right decision,'' Rooney said.
The Phillies, coming off their 14th losing season in 16 years, feel they're close to making a run at a pennant. They finished just two games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East in 2001, and hope adding Thome, a No. 1 starter and possibly a couple other free agents would put them in position to win it all.
Wade and other team officials met with left-hander Tom Glavine in Atlanta on Wednesday, and also plan to make an offer to the two-time NL Cy Young award winner on Tuesday. Glavine, 36, has spent all 16 of his seasons with the Braves.
He was 18-11 with a 2.96 ERA this season, has won 20 games or more five times, and is 242-143 overall. Atlanta is considered the front-runner to retain Glavine, but he reportedly was upset with an offer of $8 million for one season.
Wade and Bowa also are planning to meet with free agent third baseman David Bell this weekend. Bell hit .261 with 20 homers and 71 RBI for the San Francisco Giants last year. He played with Seattle in 2000 when Bowa was a coach with the Mariners.
''We've got this figured out to where we can do multiple signings,'' Wade said.