Jocketty: Cards not interested in Bonds
GM dismisses report of La Russa's interest in free agent
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Despite what manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday about wanting to meet with Barry Bonds, the Cardinals are not interested in the free agent slugger, Walt Jocketty, St. Louis' long-time general manager, said on Thursday.
"There's nothing on with Bonds," Jocketty said. "I'm sick and tired of people asking that. We don't have money for Bonds. We're trying to sign pitching."
The defending World Series champions seemed to emerge as a possible suitor for Bonds when the slugger's agent, Jeff Borris, confirmed on Thursday morning the details of a chance meeting between himself and La Russa at the Winter Meetings.A story that first appeared in Thursday's edition of the San Jose Mercury News described the encounter, witnessed by the reporter who wrote the story. "I want to talk to your guy," La Russa told Borris outside a steakhouse at the Dolphin Hotel. "Where is he? I want to talk to him."
Bonds was in town for a visit on Wednesday and purportedly met with various unidentified club officials before leaving by nightfall.Bonds didn't meet with La Russa, nor was he on hand for perhaps the biggest meeting of the day: a three-hour evening session between Borris and the Giants that the agent characterized on Thursday as "one of the most productive negotiating rounds we've had with them to date." Giants GM Brian Sabean agreed with Borris' assessment and also said the meeting was very positive.
"It was candid and open," Sabean said, also confirming that Bonds was not in attendance.
"We never do that," he said. "We never include the player in the negotiating process. Jeff can convey everything we have to say to Barry."
Sabean added that he had no idea when the negotiations would continue. Asked whether a proposal or counter-proposal is now on the table, Sabean said: "It's fluid. I'm not going to comment on that."
Borris said that he was leaving for Miami later on Thursday, then on to the Dominican Republic for three days. Sabean and the remainder of the Giants crew were scheduled to airlift back to the West Coast on Thursday afternoon.
Officials from the Padres, A's, Orioles, Dodgers and Angels also previously said that their clubs have no interest in Bonds, leaving the Giants as his lone likely destination.Borris declined to say whether his talks with the Giants were "either positive or negative" at this point. The two sides have already exchanged numerous proposals and counter-proposals.
Asked where his client would play next season if he had comparable offers from more than one team, Borris said:"Barry wants to go to a team that has a chance to go to the postseason. That's been the sole criteria the whole time." The Cardinals have reached the National League Championship Series five times in the last seven years, losing to Bonds and the Giants in 2002 and advancing to the World Series in 2004 and 2006. In 2004, they were swept by the Red Sox, and this past October, they topped the Tigers in five games. Bonds is still searching for his first World Series ring, his closest call coming in 2002 when the Giants lost to the Angels in seven games. The Cardinals never stand still, and La Russa might have envisioned Bonds' potent left-handed bat in the middle of a lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds. The Cardinals have penciled in Chris Duncan for left field right now. Juan Encarnacion is the incumbent right fielder. Bonds heads into the season with 734 homers, 21 behind Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755. He also has 2,426 walks, 645 of them intentional. Both are by far all-time records.
Bonds is seeking a one-year deal (with a one-year option) at terms comparable to the $18 million he earned last season in the final year of a five-year, $90 million deal. The Giants, evidently, haven't gone that high yet despite the fact that they don't have a left fielder or cleanup hitter and that their overtures to other power-hitting outfielders have been rebuffed during this free agent season.Sabean said that it makes baseball sense to bring back Bonds, and it's no wonder why. Bonds hit .270 in 2006 (after bottoming out at .235 as late as Aug. 20) and tied Ray Durham for the club lead with 26 homers, the most homers ever hit by a player who turned 42 during a season. He added 74 runs scored and 77 RBIs in 130 games and led the NL with 115 walks, and his .454 on-base percentage led the Major Leagues. He passed Babe Ruth, going into second place on the all-time list, when he hit his 715th homer at AT&T Park on May 28 against the Rockies. But it's obvious that these negotiations are getting to the breaking point. "When teams know what they have and what they want, they can cut to the chase very quickly," Borris said.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.