NEW YORK (AP) – Tom Glavine returned to the New York Mets and Ray Durham stayed with the San Francisco Giants on Friday as teams started preparing for next week’s winter meetings.

Clubs had to make decisions by midnight on whether to offer salary arbitration to their former players who became free agents. Oakland offered arbitration to Barry Zito, the top available starting pitcher on the market, but San Francisco declined arbitration with Barry Bonds.

In the past, the deadline was Dec. 7 and players not offered arbitration couldn’t re-sign with their former teams until May 1. But under baseball’s new labor contract, agreed to during the World Series, the deadline lost much of its importance.

Now, free agents can return to their former teams at any time. By not offering arbitration, all a club loses is the right to receive amateur draft picks if it loses a highly ranked player to another team. Free agents who were offered arbitration have until Dec. 7 to accept.

Houston declined to offer arbitration to all five of its former players who are free agents, a group that includes Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

Among the free agents who did receive arbitration offers were starting pitchers Jason Schmidt (San Francisco) and Vicente Padilla (Texas); relievers Keith Foulke (Boston), Ron Villone (New York Yankees) and Guillermo Mota and Roberto Hernandez (New York Mets); and infielders Julio Lugo (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Tony Graffanino (Milwaukee).

Also, free-agent utility infielder Geoff Blum and the San Diego Padres agreed to a $900,000, one-year contract. Left fielder Scott Podsednik agreed to a $2.9 million, one-year contract with the Chicago White Sox that avoided arbitration. And Hernandez was close to an agreement with Cleveland.

Glavine agreed to a $10.5 million, one-year contract with New York and opted against a possible return to the Atlanta Braves. Now the Mets can relax as they talk to Zito and discuss possible trades this offseason.

“With Tommy now on board, I think we still will look at ways to improve the starting rotation,” general manager Omar Minaya said.

Ten wins shy of 300 after going 15-7 with a 3.82 ERA this year, Glavine helped the Mets win their first division title since 1988. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner then went 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in three postseason starts as New York advanced to Game 7 of the NL championship series before losing to St. Louis.

Glavine, a left-hander who will be 41 next season, lives in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, and his family commuted to New York on weekends during the school year to join him. He thought long about whether he wanted to return to the Braves, his team from 1987-2002, or stay with the Mets, who signed him before the 2003 season. He told the Mets he would make his decision before the winter meetings, which begin Monday in Florida.

“I wrestled with it. I think that everybody who knows me knows how important my family is to me and knows how much strain it is on my family for me to be in New York,” he said. “After four years, it’s grown on me. I like the city. I like the fans. I love the organization. They treated me with the utmost respect and that pull to come back to New York was a very strong pull. In the end, it’s where we felt like we needed to be, and where we wanted to be.”

Durham agreed to a two-year contract worth between $14 million and $15 million. The 35-year-old second baseman, switch-hitter and two-time All-Star, is coming off his best season in years. He batted .293 with career highs of 26 home runs and 93 RBIs for the Giants with a .538 slugging percentage in 498 at-bats. He signed a three-year deal with the club before the 2003 season but has dealt with several leg injuries since his arrival.

“We are fortunate to re-sign Ray Durham and keep him in a Giants uniform,” general manager Brian Sabean said in a statement. “His switch-hitting abilities and increased power numbers serve as a needed commodity for our evolving team.”

He has impressed us with his ability to transform his game from a top-of-the-order run scorer to a middle-of-the-lineup run producer.”

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