ATLANTA - Imagine the horror Atlanta Braves fans will feel seeing longtime ace Tom Glavine wearing a Philadelphia Phillies or New York Mets uniform.
That scenario is becoming more likely as the two National League East competitors press on in their quest to lure the two-time Cy Young winner away from Atlanta.
What is more difficult to swallow is the Braves' reluctance to make Glavine feel like they want him back. First, the team could have signed him to a contract extension in the spring for the same money - three years, $30 million - it spent on John Smoltz last winter. It also could have signed him during the season.
Instead, the Braves let Glavine reach the free agent market, where he has attracted considerable interest. The Phillies offered a three-year, $27 million deal earlier in the week; the Mets increased the ante for three years and almost $31 million.
Glavine, who had a conversation with Mets president Fred Wilpon on Nov. 7, will visit Philadelphia and New York Thursday.
As for the Braves, Glavine is prepared to say goodbye after 15 years with the team.
"My mindset is that I'm not coming back because there's nothing happening that makes me think I am," he said. "They have not pursued me in a manner that makes me think they want me back."
The Braves' only offer to Glavine has been their initial offer of one year for $9 million and several option years. The team apparently feels Glavine will give it a hometown discount and will allow the club to match any offers he receives from the Phillies and Mets.
However, Glavine told the Phillies and Mets he won't use their offers to wrangle a deal from the Braves, which increases the likelihood that he'll be wearing a different uniform next year.
The thought of Glavine pitching in Philadelphia or New York leaves Smoltz feeling cold.
"I guarantee you, if he goes, in a year or two people will be saying, 'Man, remember all the stuff he did for the community and organization,"' Smoltz said. "But, let's face it. In today's world, you're not supposed to play this long together as teammates."
While the team has been lukewarm in its approach to Glavine, it has been downright cold in its efforts to retain Greg Maddux. The club has not made an offer to the four-time Cy Young winner, leading to speculation he will win his 300th game elsewhere.
"Hey, the Braves have been great to me, and I have no complaints," Maddux said from his Las Vegas home. "If the Braves decide they don't want me, that's cool, I know I'll be pitching somewhere next year."
SAME TREATMENT: Glavine and Maddux are not the only pitchers feeling unsettled by the team's attitude. Reliever Mike Remlinger insists on a three-year deal, and the Braves have balked at going more than two years for about $6 million.
The left-handed reliever has drawn interest from several teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, who are promising him a three-year contract.
Remlinger said he enjoyed pitching for the Braves, but he's angered by the team's approach. The team has not made much of an effort to re-sign him, which has increased his willingness to leave.
Losing Remlinger would be as devastating to the bullpen as losing Glavine from the rotation. In four years with the Braves, he has made at least 71 appearances each season, witha 25-10 record and a 2.62 ERA in 291 games. After a career spent flip-flopping between the bullpen and rotation, he found his niche in Atlanta as a full-time reliever and one of the game's best setup men.
JAPANESE TALENT: Sources say the Braves have met with Japanese closer Takashi Saito, who has spent his career with the Central League Yokohama Bay Stars. Saito, 32, is a right-hander who was 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 39 games last season. Talking with Saito might be the first step in returning Smoltz to the rotation. If the team loses Glavine and Maddux, Smoltz, who set an NL saves record this year, would be forced to the front of a rotation that would include Kevin Millwood, Damian Moss and Jason Marquis.
Smoltz, who stands to make an extra $100,000 for every start, indicated he's ready for either role.
"My mindset is the same," he said. "I think I can win 20 and I think I can save 40. And I certainly think questions about my elbow have been answered. I didn't work the same number of innings as a closer, but I think the stress load was greater."
YOUTH MOVEMENT: The team is prepared to move ahead without Glavine and Maddux because of its wealth of young pitching. Jung Bong and Horacio Ramirez, who will receive most of the attention next spring, have satisfied club officials they are ready by pitching well in the Arizona Fall League. Bong, who will probably win a job in the bullpen, and Ramirez, who will likely be the fifth starter, have limited Arizona hitters to a .224 average.
Reach Bill Zack at email@example.com.