New contract talks are in place between Bonds, Giants

Updated: November 4, 2006, 11:54 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds and the Giants have begun talks about a new contract that would keep the slugger in San Francisco for 2007. Whether a contract gets offered remains to be seen.

"I have had preliminary discussions with the Giants, and I believe those discussions will continue," Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, told The Associated Press on Friday night.

Bonds, 42, filed for free agency last Saturday and it is still unclear whether he will play a 15th season for the Giants next year, when the club hosts the All-Star Game.

However, the San Jose Mercury News reported that, according to baseball sources, the Giants are undecided whether to offer Bonds a contract. Sources told the newspaper the Giants want assurances that Bonds would conduct himself in a more professional manner.

The newspaper reported that, according to sources inside and outside the Giants clubhouse, several times during the season Bonds made himself unavailable in pinch-hitting situations, angering his teammates and coaches.

According to the Mercury News, multiple sources confirmed that Bonds took off his uniform during the ninth inning of a 5-3 loss at Milwaukee on Sept. 24. In that game, the Giants brought the winning run to the plate, but rookie catcher Eliezer Alfonzo hit into a game-ending double play. The loss officially eliminated the Giants from the playoff race.

Borris, Bonds' agent, declined comment when the Mercury News asked about the incidents.

Giants executive vice president Larry Baer said after Bonds filed that he had made an "organizing call" to Borris a day earlier and expected to begin serious discussions in the coming week or two.

It was thought the sides might begin talking about a new deal for Bonds immediately after the season ended, but the Giants had more pressing business after not renewing the contract of fourth-year manager Felipe Alou. San Francisco introduced Bruce Bochy as its new manager Oct. 27 after hiring him away from the division rival San Diego Padres.

While the Giants' brass has said bringing back Bonds will be a baseball decision and not about filling the stands, many believe it would be tough on management to watch Bonds break Hank Aaron's home run record with another team.

Bonds, who had cleanup surgery in his troublesome left elbow after the season ended, has 734 home runs and is 22 away from breaking Aaron's career mark of 755. His $90 million, five-year contract has expired and he doesn't want to take a pay cut.

After missing all but 14 games in 2005 following three operations on his right knee, the seven-time NL MVP batted .270 with 26 homers and 77 RBI in 367 at-bats in 2006. His defense in left field was spotty at times, though Bonds showed late in the year that he had regained strength in his legs and made several running catches.

Bonds 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.