Bonds, Giants agree on one-year deal
Slugger, 21 homers shy of Aaron, set to re-sign for $16 million
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Giants agreed in principle on Thursday to re-sign slugger Barry Bonds for the 2007 season, said a source with knowledge of the negotiations.The deal, pending Bonds passing the requisite physical, is believed to be one year for $16 million, and guarantees that Bonds will continue his pursuit of Hank Aaron's Major League all-time home run record in his familiar No. 25 San Francisco uniform. Bonds goes into 2007 with 734 homers, only 21 behind Aaron's magic 755. He hit his 715th to pass Babe Ruth into second place on the all-time list on May 28 at AT&T Park against the Rockies. Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, was traveling on Thursday and could not be reached to comment. A Giants spokesman wouldn't confirm nor deny the pending deal, but said no announcement was forthcoming on Thursday night. The source, though, said Bonds, who will turn 43 midway through the 2007 season, was happy with the outcome of the nearly six weeks of negotiations since he filed for free agency after the end of the World Series. Bonds earned $18 million this past season, the last of a five-year, $90 million contract, and was seeking comparable money next year. He came to town on Wednesday to try and close the deal. Though he didn't meet with the Giants, his mere presence proved to be a turning point. Bonds bolted by nightfall, but in his vapor trail, Borris had a three-hour evening session that included Giants general manager Brian Sabean. The agent said on Thursday morning that it was "one of the most productive negotiating rounds we've had with them to date." 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."It wasn't prudent," he said about negotiating without Bonds in the room. "I never talk to a player about negotiations, and Jeff agreed." That session was followed by a late night phone call between the two parties, where the parameters of the final deal were evidently discussed. Ultimately, it became reality later on Thursday. Bonds and the Giants seemed destined to continue on their journey together. The Giants are hosting the All-Star Game next July 10, and it would've seemed strange for them to do so without their favorite son on the roster. But for the last month, the two have tangoed.
Bonds tested the free-agent market, but found no willing takers. He generated some early interest from the A's and the Padres, but that had all but dissipated this week as those teams spent their limited finances elsewhere -- Oakland on Mike Piazza and San Diego on Greg Maddux.At the same time, the Giants pursued other free-agent outfielders, but lost out to the Dodgers on Juan Pierre, the Angels on Gary Matthews Jr., the Astros on Carlos Lee, and they were never a serious player for Alfonso Soriano, who signed an eight-year, $136 million contract -- the largest so far of a bullish market this offseason. Bonds joined the Giants as a free agent in 1993 and quickly ascended beyond the level of excellence he had established in his first seven years, starring for the cash-starved Pittsburgh Pirates. He's been the National League's Most Valuable Player seven times, the last four of them in successive seasons from 2001, when he hit 73 homers to break Mark McGwire's three-year-old single-season record, to 2004, the season that ended with knees so sore that he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on both of them. The first, on his left knee, went well as planned. But the one on his right knee proved to be a disaster. During 2005, he subsequently had to have the knee scoped two more times, the last to alleviate a sinister bacterial infection that could have caused him to lose his lower right leg had it not been checked. Bonds missed all except 14 games that season, when he hit a career-low five home runs. This past season, Bonds was plagued by bone chips in his left elbow as he built the right knee back into playing shape. The bone chips and a spur were removed a day after the end of the season. Even so, 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 long balls ever hit by a player who turned 42 during that particular season. He added 74 runs scored and 77 RBIs in 130 games, led the NL with 115 walks, and his .454 on-base percentage led the Major Leagues. Bonds went into the season with 708 homers, seven away from passing Ruth. He struggled mightily, going his first 13 games without hitting a homer, and finally getting his first on April 22 at Colorado. He tied Ruth at 714 in Oakland on May 20 after a nine-game drought. The big one came eight days later. Up until then, Bonds had wavered about returning for his 22nd season and his 15th with the Giants. But the day after passing Ruth, Bonds said he would return in 2007 if healthy. He made the determination that he was healthy enough to come back shortly after the All-Star break, and he held fast to that conviction. All he needed was a team and a contract. Now he has both. He'll play out the string with the team he knows best -- in the ballpark nestled on the banks of McCovey Cove.
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.