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Cash-strapped Braves never made an offer for Glavine
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New York Mets pitcher Tom Glavine decided to stay with the New York Mets, agreeing Friday to a $10.5 million, one-year contract and opting against a possible return to the Atlanta Braves, a baseball official with knowledge of his decision said. - photo by Associated Press
ATLANTA — Bobby Cox wanted Tom Glavine back, and Glavine was drawn to a return to Atlanta.
    Once again, as was the case in 2002, money kept the Atlanta Braves and Glavine apart.
    Only hours before Glavine reached an agreement on a 2007 contract with the New York Mets, Cox, the Braves’ longtime manager, praised Glavine both for the left-hander’s past with Atlanta and for his potential for more wins.
    But praise from Cox never led to an offer from general manager John Schuerholz, so Glavine’s decision was easy.
    ‘‘I’m sure at some point in time they would have made me an offer,’’ Glavine said. ‘‘What that offer would have been, who knows?’’
    Starting pitching is a concern, but it’s not the Braves’ top offseason priority. Schuerholz is expected to pursue trade options which may include dealing a starting pitcher when baseball’s winter meetings begin Monday in Orlando.
    The Braves enter December with six leading candidates for their starting rotation: John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Mike Hampton, Chuck James, Horacio Ramirez and Kyle Davies.
    Hampton, James and Ramirez are left-handers. Hampton, returning from elbow surgery, is 32-20 with a 3.96 ERA in 72 starts over three seasons with the Braves. James was 11-4 with a 3.78 ERA, joining John Smoltz (16-9) atop the rotation in the second half.
    If Schuerholz could have found the money, there would have been a spot for Glavine in Cox’s rotation, no matter the apparent resulting surplus of left-handed starters.
    ‘‘You’re damn right,’’ said Braves manager Bobby Cox on Friday, only hours before Glavine and the Mets reached agreement on the one-year, $10.5 million deal. ‘‘He’s still throwing great.’’
    The Braves’ total payroll for 2006 was about $90 million, about $11 million less than the Mets’. Time Warner is continuing its negotiations to sell the Braves to Liberty Media.
    The Braves’ budget constraints were the main problem, but there were other complications that led to difficult questions: How many years could the Braves offer Glavine, 40? Could they dare offer Glavine more than the $8 million deal they have with Smoltz for 2007 without also giving Smoltz a raise? What about Glavine’s desire for a no-trade guarantee? Schuerholz has never included no-trade clauses in contracts.
    Schuerholz, who didn’t return phone messages on Friday, never revealed his degree of interest in Glavine.
    Glavine enjoyed his best season with the Mets in 2006 as New York finally ended Atlanta’s run atop the NL East. He was 15-7 with a 3.82 ERA, leaving him with 290 career wins.
    Schuerholz now may have other plans for the winter meetings. The team may trade second baseman Marcus Giles and pursue another left fielder and leadoff hitter.
    The Braves, who have re-signed closer Bob Wickman to a $6.5 million deal for 2007, also are in the market for more bullpen help.
    ‘‘We need to just show up a little bit and we’ll be real good,’’ Cox said. ‘‘We need to build on the bullpen a little bit.’’