Bonds wants to play, but who wants him?
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- His anticipated court appearance is Friday in San Francisco and Barry Bonds may have missed baseball's annual winter meetings this year, but he let everyone know his intentions through an old friend.
"I talked to him a few days ago and he told me he wants to play next year," said Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who managed Bonds in Pittsburgh from 1986 to '92. "I really hope he plays somewhere next year for sure. I think he's going to break 800 [home runs]."
Even though the Giants signed Bonds to a one-year contract last year when he was facing possible indictment -- including a clause to void the deal if he were to face criminal charges -- baseball officials believe he likely will not play again.
But if the probability of Bonds playing can be equated to an open window, then there seems to be at least a crack across the San Francisco Bay Bridge in Oakland.
"Knowing the A's," said one longtime baseball man, "they always go against the grain. [General manager Billy Beane] isn't afraid of being unconventional. They don't turn away from any situation, unless it's [related to] money."
That, sources presume, would not be a problem. Bonds' value is sure to decrease from the $19.3 million he made in his 15th and final season with the Giants. According to reports, Oakland has long coveted Bonds, and a team source confirmed past interest. But as of early Thursday morning, the source said the window is shut -- for now.
But if not the A's, then who?
When Bonds hit home run No. 755, tying Hank Aaron as the all-time home run leader, one of the more awkward moments came when the cameras panned to commissioner Bud Selig, who stood with a conflicted look on his face and stuffed his hands in his pockets. Lost, by some, in the moment was Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks joyously raising his arms and clapping, standing just below Selig in the luxury box at San Diego's Petco Park.
The emotion seemed curious, and one source suggested the Rangers might have an interest, since most interviewed for this story said Bonds would have to go to the American League and be a designated hitter.
But Rangers GM Jon Daniels refuted that notion and shortly stated that Bonds is "not a fit for us." Daniels didn't return an e-mail when asked to expound on his response.
Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, disagreed with the theory that Bonds will be unable to draw interest from a National League team.
I think this signals the end of his playing career. If the indictment hadn't occurred, I think he would have had an opportunity somewhere.
--A National League GM
Indeed, Bonds was an All-Star for the 14th time in his career, and he led the major leagues with 132 walks and a .480 on-base percentage. He ended the season hitting .276 with 28 home runs and 66 RBIs in 126 games.
"If Barry had any type of decline in skill, he would be the first one to take off his uniform," Borris said. "It wouldn't have to be stripped off his back. He's got too much pride in himself and too much respect for himself as a player."
Leyland said Bonds told him he doesn't have to be just a DH.
"He said, 'A lot of people don't know I can still play the outfield,'" Leyland said, quoting Bonds. "'I can still play it pretty good. I just can't play it as often.'"
Bonds' defensive numbers don't account for his painful knees and, at times, unique routes to balls. Yet other than Oakland, no major league team has publicly emerged as a candidate."Most of the time you know whether you can't play anymore," said new Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker, who managed Bonds in San Francisco from 1993 to 2002. "Some guys fool themselves. Barry wouldn't fool himself. I know him too well." When asked if he had spoken to teams about Bonds at the winter meetings, Borris declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of potential discussions. "I think this signals the end of his playing career," one NL general manager said after Bonds was indicted. "If the indictment hadn't occurred, I think he would have had an opportunity somewhere."
Others agreed, adding that the potential public relations nightmare could be distracting to a team.
"Nobody can afford the PR hit for sure," said one veteran agent, who has never represented Bonds. "You cannot sign Barry Bonds. It will paint your club in a bad light no matter who you are."
Borris insists Bonds' legal troubles will not prevent him from playing in 2008 since the court system is often tied up with motions and appeals, which could potentially put off a trial until after next season.
One AL general manager, when asked if he thinks Bonds will play again, used what he said was a refrain from agent Scott Boras, who once represented Bonds.
"I can't imagine that Bonds will get a job until, at the very least, his legal situation is resolved," the GM said. "As we know, that will most likely extend beyond his useful life as a player. That said, Boras' life philosophy applies here -- 'All it takes is one.'"Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
MORE MLB HEADLINES
- Tigers get Price in 3-way deal with Rays, M's
- Red Sox trade Lester to A's for Cespedes
- Kershaw throws CG, extends win streak to 10
- Phillies' Lee reinjures elbow, returns to DL
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
BARRY BONDS INDICTED
News• Bonds pleads not guilty to refiled federal charges
• Judge unseals Bonds testimony | Read it (pdf)
• Bonds' lawyers set to make request for dismissal
• Prosecutor cleared to work Bonds perjury case
• Bonds asks judge to dismiss perjury charges
• Bonds seeks to keep legal team in perjury case
• Hearing to determine lawyers' conflict of interest
• Bonds pleads not guilty; Feb. 7 next court date
• Fish: Defense could challenge Bonds' positive test
• Report: Agent says Bonds wants to play in 2008
• Bonds lawyer shopping as arraignment nears
• Bonds' new judge presiding over BALCO cases
• Old friends-turned-foes to testify against Bonds
• Bonds' trainer still won't testify if case goes to trial
• Bonds indicted on perjury, obstruction charges
• Bonds' trainer gains release after year in prison
• Bonds latest name on sports' infamous legal list
• Timeline: Bonds and steroid allegations
Analysis• Bryant: Remembering McGwire while Bonds is arraigned
• Fainaru-Wada/Quinn: Answers to key questions as Bonds begins legal journey
• Nelson: Bare market for Bonds
• Bryant: Bonds a misguided martyr
• Hill: Indictment is just plain wrong
• Olney: All roads lead to infamy
• Fainaru-Wada/Quinn: Path to indictment
• Bryant: Bonds case puts pressure on Mitchell
• Olney: Era of dishonesty
• Wojciechowski: Bonds' dare backfires
• Fish: Bonds' positive test didn't come from MLB
• Munson: Don't expect Bonds to cop a plea
• ESPN.com: How should MLB react?
• Kreidler: Mixed reaction in Bay Area
• Neyer: How bad is it?
• For the record: Legal definition of perjury
The indictment• United States v. Barry Lamar Bonds
SportsNation• Polling the reaction of SportsNation
ESPN Video• Indictment may end career
• Bonds' attorney speaks out
• Roger Cossack's take
• Will Bonds be in the Hall of Fame?
• Will Bonds play again?
• Was race a factor in indictment?
• Charles Barkley weighs in on Bonds
• Buster Olney on Bonds
• Steve Phillips on Bonds and A-Rod
ESPNRadio.com• Peter Gammons: A sad ending
• Baseball Today: Peter Pascarelli
• Shaun Assael on timing
• Cossack on the indictment