Bonds' deal could take time to iron out
Agent says focus now is on 'language portion' of contract
The Giants and Barry Bonds have an agreement in principle for the slugger to return to San Francisco in 2007. But it could be weeks before the complicated contract is completed, Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, said on Monday."I believe we have an agreement on all issues," Borris said when reached in Los Angeles on Monday night. "Both sides were very thorough. It's now time to focus our attention on the language portion of the contract. And it's complex. It could take awhile to iron out all the issues." The two sides came to an agreement this past Thursday evening as the annual Winter Meetings closed. Borris had pre-planned a three-day trip to the Dominican Republic and arrived back in the U.S. late Monday. Much of the Giants' brass attended the memorial service in San Diego on Sunday for the late Pat Dobson -- the 64-year-old former pitcher and special assistant to general manager Brian Sabean who recently died of leukemia. Sabean said he thought the final details of Bonds' contract eventually would be ironed out. "I would hope so," Sabean said during a conference call that also included new manager Bruce Bochy. "There are two willing parties." Sabean called those details "wide ranging," and acknowledged that Bonds had yet to take his requisite physical. "Most of the issues right now are centered around monetary disbursement," Sabean said. "I'll leave it at that." Borris, though, said the issues were more formulaic. "It's just a matter of getting all the I's dotted and all the T's crossed before Barry signs on the dotted line," the agent said. Bonds goes into 2007 with 734 homers, only 21 behind Hank Aaron's magic 755. Bonds 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. But the chase of Aaron alone was not enough reason for the Giants to bring Bonds back to San Francisco, Sabean said. The Giants have not made the playoffs since 2003, and within his budgetary constraints of $80 million-$90 million, the GM is trying to build a competitive team. Bonds, who made $18 million this past season in the last year of a five-year, $90 million contract, will receive deferred money of $5 million a year from his old contract, beginning in 2007 and into the foreseeable future, Sabean said. And Bonds has often noted that his primary motivation is to win a World Series before he retires. He and the Giants came closest in 2002, when they were beaten in the World Series in seven games by the Angels. "There was definite give and take on that point," Sabean said about a willingness on Bonds' part to creatively disperse his money. "If we hadn't been able to shake and bake the financial part of this, we wouldn't have gone for it. So credit has to be given to both parties." The Giants pursued other power-hitting free-agent outfielders, but came up empty on those fronts.
And despite taking some criticism in the local media for agreeing to a deal with Bonds at close to the left fielder's terms, Sabean said he's willing to take the heat."Unfortunately, people missed out on our job at hand or our action plan," Sabean said. "It was my job to get involved in as many areas as possible and be as creative as possible. Obviously, we dipped in with both feet into a lot of free-agent situations, including Barry's, and had a lot of trade discussions. But at the end of the day, you still need a fourth hitter and you still need a lineup. "So I'm not going to apologize for Barry being our fourth hitter. It's the way it turned out. If there's rancor, so be it, but it's going to get decided on the field." For his part, Bonds tested the free-agent market. He generated some early interest from the A's and the Padres, but that interest had all but dissipated this past week as those teams spent their limited finances elsewhere -- Oakland on Mike Piazza and San Diego on Greg Maddux. In the midst of it all, Bonds made a one-day trip to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to partake in some meetings with other clubs. He did not meet with the Giants, although later that night, the framework of a deal was virtually completed. Sabean wouldn't disclose why he thought Bonds showed his face on the Wednesday of the Winter Meetings. "He was there for a reason and I know that as a fact," Sabean said. "You can presume this: If he hadn't signed with the Giants, he would've signed with somebody else. I'll guarantee you that."
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.