From the mailbag: the Barry Bonds question

Pending Pinstripes Top 30 Prospects
Taking a lesson from Cal Ripken

Earlier this week, RAB reader Justin sent me the following e-mail:

My question is …why not add Bonds? Nobody wants him. We could have him for cheap and he would GREATLY improve our offense…I think it would make ours the best in the baseball (I think we’re probably a step behind Detroit). Bonds as a full time DH (so able to handle 600 AB’s without breaking down) and batting in front of Arod in Yankee Stadium is likely to put up a 300 avg 40HR and 500OBP season. He’s still one of the best hitters in baseball and he’s an OBP machine. Yes I know we have Giambi and Matsui but both those guys are inferior to Bonds (especially Giambi). This would also allow us to trade Matsui for prospects…I know Bonds is supposed to be a horrible guy and all but there were many teammates of his who enjoyed playing with him. Plus, bringing him to the Yanks takes the spotlight off Pettitte and Arod (who we really need to just focus on hitting) and all the other nonsense. I would also LOVE for Bonds to take Cano aside and teach him pitch selection. What do you think? I understand its a dangerous PR move but Yankee fans love winners and after about 3 home runs the fans in the bronx will embrace him…

Oh, Barry Bonds. Ever the tempting target. Imagining a player of Bonds’ caliber filling the DH role in the Bronx is enough to make any Yankee fan salivate. The only problem is that Barry Bonds comes with, well, Barry Bonds. He comes with a surly personality. He comes with baggage. And, oh, yeah, he comes with a federal investigation. The Yanks have enough of those right now, thank you very much.

It’s not so hard to believe that Bonds remains unemployed. Jeff Borris, Bonds’ agent, claims that the slugger is in great shape and is just waiting for a team to call. “He was an All-Star last year. His numbers were still off the charts, and for any team committed to winning, there’s no reason they wouldn’t want him on their roster,” Borris said.

Yet, the response to Bonds has been nothing but deafening silence. No one is talking about collusion because no team is going to offer Bonds a deal. Notably, this spring, his former Giants teammates have been rather outspoken about how much of a negative presence Bonds was in the San Francisco clubhouse. And there’s no love lost between Bonds and Giants owner Peter Magowan. “He has the statistics that would indicate he can still play,” Magowan said. “[But] it’s not up to me to get him hired someplace. It’s not my job.”

And then there is, of course, this matter of an ongoing legal battle. With the echo of the explosion from the Mitchell Report still ringing in baseball’s ears, it’s hard to envision a team willfully taking on Barry Bonds.

Finally, Bonds’ health is a question mark. He’ll be 44 in July, and he’s reached the 600-plate appearance plateau just once in the last five seasons and not at all over the last three. To expect him to reach that level, even as a full-time DH, is a gamble.

It sure is hard to ignore an OPS of 1.045 even in 500 at bats. The Yanks don’t really have spare parts that can put up those numbers sitting around. But I think the negatives of a Bonds signing far outweigh the positives, and at this point, Bonds is a gamble that the Yanks — and 29 other teams — are not willing to take.

Pending Pinstripes Top 30 Prospects
Taking a lesson from Cal Ripken
  • E-ROC

    I think somebody will bite. Somebody like the Padres. The Yanks don’t have room for Barry Bonds, but if Matsui and Giambi are out for an extended period of time, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bonds’ name is on the lineup card.

    Bonds’ presence would be scary, especially if he’s batting behind A-Rod. Just imagine the numbers A-Rod would put up hitting in front of Barry. ‘Ol well.

  • RollingWave

    Actually, if someone should sign Barry, it really should be the Mariners.

    They obviously think they can contend because they made the Bedard trae, but if you look at their lineup I think it’s fairly safe to say that they’ll most likely finish around the bottom 5 in the AL in scoring, that’s simply not going to cut it (they were right in the middle last year and they lost Guillen , and while Ichiro is an alien last year was still probably one of his better season)

    However, Bonds as the DH is something that really could completley change the dynamics (or lack off) for that team. I mean they’re a poor offesnive club but Ichiro alone >>>>>> the entire Giants lineupout outside of Bonds.

    As for the Yankees, no .. it’s a bad fit, the Yankees already have a boat load of guys that probably should DH. espically Jason Giambi. who’s actually a very similar hitter to Bonds if you havn’t noticed. (over the last few years anyway).

    Still though, I guess it would make sense. and it would fully fufill that Onions article like 5 years ago that made a joke on the Yankees litterally signing everyone, in their photoshop picture they had Bernie / RJ / A-rod and Bonds… RJ /A-rod wans’t on the team then ……

  • Mike

    If the Yanks can pawn off Giambum I’d bring in Bonds on a heartbeat and let Duncan, Ensberg, etc battle for 1B.

    I still say Giambum would welcome a trade to get more playing time in his walk year. He’s not going to get 500 AB’s with the Yanks.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    So what exactly do the Bonds enthusiasts plan on doing with Matsui and Damon, even if, by some act of God, we were able to get rid of Giambi during the most expensive year of his contract?

    The last thing this team needs is more offense and, if it did, it wouldn’t need it from an “all or nothing”, post-40, really bloated guy with no knees. I’m more curious as to who’s going to emerge as our bullpen, even if Joba spends the first couple of months of the season in it.

    • steve (different one)

      i am not saying i would endorse signing Bonds, but you would keep Damon in LF and trade Matsui.

      problem solved.

      oh, and there is no such thing as too much offense.

  • r.w.g.

    Bad fit for the Yankees? Why? Cause he can crush Red Sox pitching?

    Every single American League team ought to be looking at Bonds if he’s better than their DH. Bonds is SO MUCH better than Matsui and Giambi it’s not even funny.

    He put up 28 HRs and 70-something RBIs on a garbage team with nobody around him, having to play outfield 3-4 days a week on DH knees. He’s an absolute beast. I don’t understand why no one will at least explore signing him.. just tell him “No posse, no entourage.. the only thing you can bring with you is your recliner and your bat.”

    I understand the notion of keeping Matsui.. he’s a perennial 100-RBI guy and is a great help when the other outfielders need a rest. But seriously.. he will never post an OBP above .375.. let alone 80 frickin’ points above .400!!

    You’re telling me the team is better off with Matsui and Giambi instead of Bonds and an outfielder making the team out of spring training (Gardner?)

    I don’t believe it.

    • RollingWave

      It’s a bad fit because

      1. the difference between Bonds at age 44 and a healthy Giambi is limited. over the last 3 season Giambi’s OPS+ in 05 and 06 respectively is 161 and 148. Bond 06 and 07 is 156 and 170 , both had a lost year to injury in the last 3 season. (Bonds 05 Jason 07) so yes Bonds is a upgrade, but it’s a pretty small one . and the real issue for either is health.

      2. the guy you need to cut / trade to make room for him: if you add Bonds as a pure DH, you abosalutely NEED to cut /trade one of Giambi / Matsui to make room. probably Giambi, which is virtually impossible without eatting at least 10M and getting nothing back in return. Matsui is more marketable, but he’s also a more flexible piece at the moment, and both have a NTC. so you might end up cutting them to do this.

      So… for a minor potential upgrade, your going to cut a 25M player (Giambi makes 20 this year and you need to give him the 5M payout next year, Matsui is still owned around 25M over 2 season too) AND sign another pretty hefty contract (he might be willing to take a incentive based contract sure but the overall addup if he lives up to it is still going to be well north of 15M) ? AND he’s surely going to bring the circus with him? you COULD do that sure, but it’s going through an awfullll lot of trouble and eatting an awfulll lot of money for a minor upgrade.

      The Yankees did actually lead the majors in scoring last year in case you missed it… in fact, they actually out scored the next team by a MILE … the Yankees RS difference to the #2 team is pretty much the difference between the #2 team and league average. WOW. so it seems fairly pointless that you would seriously want to make a minor upgrade by going through about 30 Million dollar and a huge circus to boot.

      the teams that should make this move is

      a. an AL team
      b. have trouble scoring runs
      c. on the outside looking in
      d. have a pretty iffy DH

      • r.w.g.

        I just can’t in good conscience agree with any of that. I cannot make myself say the Yankees are better off with Jason Giambi and Matusi because they make a lot of money and Bonds wants a lot of money (although I wasn’t thinking anywhere near 15 million dollars like you are.. more like 7-8 million).

        Barry Bonds posted a .480 OBP last year. That’s just outrageous. I’m not looking at leader board stats so I don’t know if anyone came close to that.. but off the top of my head I’d assume the only one within sniffing distance was Magglio Ordonez and I’m pretty sure he hit like 100 points higher than Bonds last year (and their home run totals were probably similar).

        The no-trade clauses are the best part of your argument, because it probably would be too much of a hassle to replace two slow, un-atheletic players who’s sole value lies in their ability to hit with one slow, un-atheletic, fat, greatest hitter of all god damn time.

        My biggest problem is the minor upgrade part. I don’t think it’s that minor of an upgrade, especially over Giambi. I mean.. you can’t just take Giambi’s numbers from seasons prior to him ripping his whole foot apart, numbers he put up batting in between guys like Alex, Jorge, Matsui, etc.. and compare them to Bonds putting up STUPID numbers in one of the top 5 pitcher’s parks with Ray Durham, Dan Ortmeier, and Rich Aurillia having his back.

        I will concede the media circus may not be worth it.. and that concession may thwart my whole argument (and if it does, so what, this is only talk), but I think it is a big understatement to say that Bonds would offer a ‘modest upgrade’.

        • RollingWave

          Sure, I could agree that saying it’s a minor upgrade is probably more under the assumption of the (lack of) health for either player.

          But again, no one is going to trade for Jason Giambi at this point. if they want a DH they’d ummm sign BONDS.

          It just doesn’t make any sense to cut a 25 million player who’s not on the DL.

          As for Bond’s contract, I’m guessing it’s going to be incentive based whoever gives it to . but I highly doubt he would go for it unless the overall incentives can add up to a pretty big contract, and 7-8M simply isn’t a big contract these days for a FA. espically not for the best hitter ever.

          Again, it IS a upgrade of course, Barry Bonds is a upgrade over just about anyone really. but with the money and circus involved, and the fact that the marginal effect of is very very limited (the more you score, the less each additional run helps.. and the Yankees will score a ton even with it’s current group)

          Of course, if we lose a couple of the guys to the DL early and Barry is still avalible, GO FOR IT!

  • pete c.

    They have enough bad chemistry on this team. They don’t need more.

    • steve (different one)

      says who? who said they have “bad chemistry”?

  • RollingWave

    Just to illustrate, the last time Bonds made under 8M… 5 of the current teams doesn’t even exist lol (Rockies / Marlins / Tampa / D-backs didn’t exist, and the Nats were still the Expos) and that’s not even inflation adjusted

    • r.w.g.

      Ultimately, I think you’re right. He’ll want close to his 2007 salary, and truthfully on his performance, he probably deserves it.

      It’s amazing to me, though, to watch teams throughout the AL not pick him up.. teams like Kansas City are preferring to give ABs to guys like Mark Teahen instead of Bonds. It’s so obvious that he’s being blackballed.

      • RollingWave

        Actually, the Royals DH is probably young Billy Butler, and that make sense. he’ a young bat with huge potential that you really should give playing time to.

        the team that really really baffles me is the Mariners not taking him, they’re going for it this year… but use Jose Vidro as the DH? really?

        Teams that doesn’t have a good DH candidate in the AL are..

        Mariners (they had Jose Vidro there last year, I like Vidro a lot when he was a 2B.. but DH?),

        Rangers (last year they mostly used Sosa and Botts, Sosa’s not around and Botts is basically Shelley Duncan in Texas),

        Twins (this was the most hilarious, they had guys like Lew Ford and Nick freaking Punto and the biggest joke of all, Jason Tyner)

        Just about everyone else has at least a reasonable DH candidate.

  • Count Zero

    I don’t think there’s any question Bonds would be a powerful addition — even if he only gets 450 plate appearances. The guy is still the most feared hitter in the game, and with the short porch in RF, and him protecting A-Rod in the lineup…OOOF. That’s downright scary man.

    But the legal cloud and the PR mess is just too much. He may miss very significant time while he’s making plate appearances in a courtroom. Plus, I can’t see Bonds taking direction from Girardi. He would have to really, really want a WS ring badly.

  • Mike A.

    This team has enough of a circus act going on with A-Rod, Pettitte’s thing, Joba Rules and all that crap. Bonds is a great player, but I’ll pass.

  • Chip

    If this were the problem next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to do it but I just don’t see it happening with Giambi around. I’d imagine somebody like the Royals will eventually give him 5 million to DH for the season. Keep in mind, if Bonds wants to he’s very close to 3000 hits if memory serves. I doubt a team will sign him at market value but I wouldn’t be surprised to see somebody sign him to a bargain bin contract towards the end of spring training when Bonds gets desperate

  • Mike D

    No to Bonds. The Yankees need to get away from the concept of having a full-time DH and go back to using the DH as a rotation slot. I actually think they’d like to do that this year, which means Giambi will be playing more 1B than anyone (outside of Giambi) would like. Even if Jason is healthy and has a solid ’08, they need to let him walk after this season. He restricts than line-up.

  • Mike D

    Chip, you’re right. I checked. He’s only 65 hits shy of 3,000, and you know he wants to hit that number. With all the money he has, you’d think he’d be willing to take an incentive-laden contract just to play one last year.

    It would be interesting to see A-Rod’s reaction if he played for the Yankees: “Uh, Barry, could you pleeeeease stop hitting HRs. You’re making it very difficult for me to catch you.”

  • LiveFromNewYork

    We don’t need the controversy…we don’t need the circus. Even NY is not big enough for the Yankees plus Bonds. Because it would always be the Yankees plus Bonds. He would never be a Yankee. He’d always be a satellite of the team, not a part of it. He doesn’t like anyone and no one likes him. He would be a draw for a team desperate for a draw but the Yankees are not desperate for anything except maybe a few relievers. Pass. Pass. and Pass.

    Did I mention Pass?

  • Joe

    I think that if Damon proves he’s in good enough shape to be even passable in CF, the Yankees should put Matsui in LF, Giambi at 1B, and sign Bonds to DH. Any defensive shortcomings the team would have – and I acknowledge they’d be pretty major – would be compensated for by having a lineup where someone like Matsui is hitting ninth.

    I don’t like Bonds, personally, but if the Yankees can give him an incentive-laden contract based on PAs, I think it would be foolish to pass on it. Wasn’t Sheffield an issue off the field, too? I don’t remember anyone minding too much when he was hitting in front of Rodriguez and jacking 40 HRs a year.

  • Joey h

    great point about ridding matsui for propects. ok lets take a look at this. bonds infront of alex. now that may or may not be a problem. that be good for bonds because he willget pitches to hit becuase he wont get that “barry bonds” treatment sitting in the 3 hole infront of arod. and even if he does you put another man on base and Arod can rack up on RBI and its an extra run every game and every home run he his when bonds is on base. i dont like barry but unless giambi’s old ass can proove to be good id rather have bonds’ old ass sitting i t he dh hole

  • steve (different one)

    says who? who said they have “bad chemistry”?

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph M

    If Bonds is the answer then exactly what is the question. The perplexing part of the Yankees annual post season pratfall is why the offense completely dies. I know the pitching is better in the post season but that doesn’t begin to explain thr transformation from leading the league in runs scored to a modern day version of the 66 Dodgers.

    My point, the post season malaise that sweeps through spots 1-9 in the batting order is not a factor of one individual and therefore one individual can’t solve it. Bonds can’t run anymore, he can’t field, he would be a one man gang on a team of one man gangs. He’s probably better than Giambi , probably better than Matsui, but neither seem to be going away this year so why add yet another one dimensional player.

    The biggest addition this season will be the subtraction of Torre, we can only hope the pitching is enough and that Girardi will be able to solve the post season riddle of the pop gun cannons, I doubt Barry Bonds is the answer to that riddle.

  • Jeff

    If you have any sense of “team” this seems like a no-brainer… you pass on Bonds. Players will deal with the distraction that Pettit has caused because he earned it but if you think the Yankees are going to put up with all the media BS that would come with Barry on the team – you’re giving them a lot of credit. I wouldn’t.
    Also, I really can’t believe someone would argue for Bonds on the Yanks knowing we have Giambi and Matsui tied up with pretty heafty contracts. In no way would this make sense for us.
    Because of the first point this doesn’t even make sense for a lot of teams that could use his offense a lot more.

    A different side of me all together feels like Barry is being cheated out of the game. I know a lot of people feel the opposite and that he has cheated baseball but our games history has had so many examples of players doing everything they can (legal or not) to excel… cork, grease, sand paper, amphedimines, and ultimately steroides were choices that many took. Barry beating the HR record is not the same as the Hammers feat – but we shouldn’t reduce his accomplishments to nothing either.
    He is and should be remembered as a special talent… to have his final years taken away is something that I’ll regret as a fan of the sport.

  • PreteFunkEra

    Here’s the question…

    If Boston offers him a deal and his agent said “he’d rather play for you” do you then at least entertain the thought?

    • Glen L.

      where on earth would bonds play for the red sox? DH – ortiz, LF -manny

  • http://RiverAve.Blues Joseph M

    Jeff you are right on target. Great post.