NEW YORK (AP) – Frank Thomas’ $10 million option for next year was declined Friday by the World Series champion Chicago White Sox, who chose to give the two-time AL MVP a $3.5 million buyout.

The 37-year-old designated hitter and first baseman exercised his half of the mutual option for next season on Monday, giving the team five days to make a decision. The White Sox could try to re-sign him for less money.

Thomas, who has missed most of the past two years with foot and ankle problems, hit .219 with 12 homers in just 105 at-bats last season.

A career .307 hitter with 448 homers and 1,465 RBIs, Thomas is the team’s leader in most offensive categories.

Outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. and the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to one-year contract that guaranteed him $3.21 million.

Cruz was obtained from Boston in August and batted .301 with six homers and 22 RBIs in 47 games. Cruz will earn $2.91 million next season, and the deal includes a 2007 club option at $4.5 million with a $300,000 buyout. He could earn an additional $300,000 per year in performance bonuses.

Seven players filed for free agency Friday, including New York Mets closer Braden Looper, Florida outfielder Jeff Conine, St. Louis outfielder John Mabry and Yankees left-hander Al Leiter. A total of 166 players have filed since the World Series.

, and about two dozen more are eligible to file by Thursday’s deadline. Free agents can start negotiating money with all teams starting Nov. 11.

Also Friday, the Mets declined their $2 million option Friday on left-hander Dae-Sung Koo. Koo was 0-0 with a 3.91 ERA in 23 innings over 33 games last season, his first with the team.

In other Mets news, general manager Omar Minaya led a delegation earlier this week that visited free-agent closer Billy Wagner at his home in Virginia. Minaya declined comment on the meeting, which was reported Friday by the New York Post.

AP-ES-11-04-05 2105EST

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