The Chicago White Sox invoked the diminished skills clause in Frank Thomas' contract today. The once Big Hurt has 7 days to accept a smaller base salary or become a free agent. The prevailing wind has him accepting the pay cut (or rather deferment) and staying with the Sox.
Thomas is still a decent offensive player (59th in OPS with an .834) but is a shadow of the great player he was once and is relegated to DH'ing. He will be 35 in May, 2003. Would anyone be willing to pay him more than the $250K base the White Sox will now pay him? Probably-The Red Sox and Braves come to mind. But don't forget that he has nearly $10M in deferred payments. No one is going to match that not in these days of austerity.
That's probably what the Sox think and that's why they are willing to make this gamble. What if they lose? The ChiSox are a young team with players like Joe Crede and Joe Borchard who can DH if they do not start defensively (or the players they displace can move to DH). Besides their minor league system is brimming with talent. The AL Central is weak division and they probably feel that they contend as easily with Thomas as without.
What does Thomas do? Swallow his pride and the deferred cash and stay or test the free agent waters? Only he knows for sure, but realistically Chicago is the best place for him to be in 2003.
This will be an interesting test case. If Thomas stays, these sorts of clauses will start to be pushed more and more on aging players or those with long-term agreements.