Forum Spin Doctor
SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds is up for bids and on the open market. The slugger filed for free agency Saturday, an expected move as he prepares to test the waters and determine what teams might have interest - and whether San Francisco will step up to try to keep him in a Giants uniform as he tries to break Hank Aaron's home run record next season.
"A lot of players are somewhat nervous or apprehensive about becoming free agents because of all the uncertainty," Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, told The Associated Press on Saturday. "Barry has nerves of steel. That's also evident in the way he plays baseball."
Borris and the Giants have not had any official talks since the season ended about beginning negotiations on a new contract for Bonds, whose $90 million, five-year contract is up.
It was thought such conversations might happen almost immediately, but the Giants decided not to renew the contract of fourth-year manager Felipe Alou and said their first order of business was hiring Alou's replacement.
Bruce Bochy became San Francisco's new skipper Friday, and making a decision about Bonds and 10 other potential free agents will be next on general manager Brian Sabean's to-do list.
"He's not the only guy who will file for free agency, so we treat it as a formality," Sabean said Saturday of Bonds. "It's part of the process, no big deal."
Infielder Shea Hillenbrand and lefty reliever Mike Stanton, both of whom finished the 2006 season with San Francisco, also were among the 59 players to file Saturday on the first possible day.
Many wonder what Bonds' market value will be. His quest to become baseball's home run king - Bonds is 22 homers from breaking Aaron's record of 755 - is certainly attractive. But will his health and off-field issues cause some teams to shy away from signing him because they don't want to take that risk?
Not to mention the fact the seven-time NL MVP is 42 with two tender knees, is coming off elbow surgery and likely is headed into his final season of an impressive career that has led many to call him the best player ever.
Bonds has 734 home runs. After missing all but 14 games in 2005 following three operations on his troublesome right knee, Bonds batted .270 with 26 homers and 77 RBIs in 367 at-bats this season.
He has spent 14 of his 21 big league seasons with San Francisco and helped the Giants draw 3 million fans in all seven seasons of their stadium's existence. Yet owner Peter Magowan has made it clear the decision about whether to bring Bonds back will be about baseball and not just attracting fans in 2007, when San Francisco will host the All-Star game in its sparkling waterfront ballpark.
Bonds, admired by other players and managers for his ability to block things out, has done his best to keep his legal issues from becoming a distraction for himself and his teammates in recent seasons.
A grand jury is investigating whether Bonds perjured himself when he testified in 2003 in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative steroid distribution case that he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.
Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, a five-year deal reached Tuesday night, gives the Giants more time to work out a new contract with Bonds if that's what they decide to do.
The previous labor agreement mandated that if the Giants had not offered Bonds arbitration by Dec. 7, they would be unable to sign him until May 1. Now, the club can still negotiate with Bonds even if it doesn't offer him arbitration by the new Dec. 1 deadline.
"It can be shuffled back," Sabean said Friday. "It maybe gives you more of an opportunity to keep him, but I don't know if it's as front-burner as it might have been had the rule been in place."