In early October, when Glavine declined the $13 million option the Mets owed him, all indications were he'd return to the Braves, who drafted him in the second round of the 1984 First-Year Player Draft and employed him at the Major League level from 1987-2002. During that span, he notched 242 of his 303 career victories and was awarded with his two National League Cy Young Awards (1991 and 1998).
Once Clifton saw the Braves' initial offer -- a one-year deal worth $6.5 million -- he knew things would progress quickly. Knowing he might receive more money elsewhere, Glavine entered these negotiations with the intention of signing with the Braves as long as he deemed their offer to be fair.
The Nationals and Phillies were among the other teams believed to be interested in Glavine, who made it known he wouldn't seriously listen to any other offers until he exhausted every opportunity to sign with the Braves.
"I think the Braves were happy to know Tom was willing to provide them a bit of a discount, and I think they paid a little more than they had planned," Clifton said. "But I think it's a fair deal for both sides."
Braves general manager Frank Wren can take great satisfaction in the fact he was able to get the man he targeted to fill his team's need for a reliable and durable starter. Glavine, who will turn 42 in March, has won at least 13 games and completed at least 198 innings each of the past three seasons.
With John Smoltz and Tim Hudson already serving as the anchors of the rotation, the Braves simply were looking for a pitcher who would provide regular quality innings. With Glavine, they got a pitcher whose 23 quality starts ranked fifth in the National League last year, a leader, whose clubhouse value is immeasurable, and a mentor, who can have a definite impact on young starting pitchers like Chuck James and Jo-Jo Reyes.
"We think adding Tommy would clearly make our rotation a lot better," Wren said earlier this month.
Critics argue the 4.45 ERA Glavine posted this past season and the fact he allowed 17 earned runs and worked just 10 1/3 innings in his final three starts are indications his skills are quickly eroding. But in the 10 starts he made preceding that forgettable finish, he was 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA.
Glavine's greatest contribution to the Braves might come from the fact he's completed at least 200 innings in 14 of the past 16 seasons that haven't been shortened by a players' strike.
As long as he can provide something similar this season, he will relieve some of the stress Smoltz and Hudson felt this past season and at the same time likely have a positive effect on a bullpen that might not have to eat as many innings as it did this past year while backing an Atlanta rotation that was filled with inexperience.
Clifton has stressed Glavine's desire to return to the Braves primarily centered around the opportunity to spend much more time with his wife, Christine, and their four children. While he pitched for the Mets during the past five seasons, he'd say goodbye to the family at the start of Spring Training with the knowledge they wouldn't be reunited in New York until the school year in suburban Atlanta ended in late May.
Many have told stories about how Glavine felt he made a mistake within a day of opting to reject the Braves and sign with the Mets after the 2002 season. Last winter, he was hoping to make a return that would've allowed him the chance to join the 300-win club with his original organization.
When the Braves didn't even provide an offer, a discouraged Glavine had reason to believe he may never pitch for Atlanta again. But now there's no longer reason to wonder. His dream has become a reality, and now the task is to make sure this homecoming is a memorable one.