Sports Outside the Beltway

Barry Bonds May Leave San Francisco

Barry Bonds may not sign with the Giants for next year if they continue to pursue other options.

As the agent for Barry Bonds sizes up the market for the No. 2 home-run hitter in history, the prospect of Bonds leaving San Francisco for another city is growing less unthinkable by the day. Agent Jeff Borris, sounding resolute, said Wednesday that teams in both the National and American leagues are actively pursuing Bonds, and that some are interested in pushing the process forward at a quicker rate.

“There’s a realistic possibility that Barry could wind up playing for another club,” Borris said. “I know the general consensus out there is that Barry’s going back to San Francisco, but there are clubs out there that have demonstrated sincere interest. They want answers as soon as possible, and they’re entitled to them.” Borris said the Giants would be making a “gross miscalculation” if they assume Bonds has no other opportunities and is set on returning to San Francisco for a 15th season. “The Giants have cornered the market on the best player in the game over the last 14 years,” Borris said. “Now, other teams have a chance to get in on him.”

While Borris said some suitors are content to fly “under the radar,” there’s a bit more Bonds-related buzz making the rounds as the general managers meetings progress.

With Oakland slugger Frank Thomas on the verge of signing a deal with the Blue Jays, the Athletics could have an opening for a designated hitter. But serious doubts exist over whether general manager Billy Beane will pay anything close to the $18 million that Bonds made in 2006.

Meanwhile, the Giants are negotiating with the representatives for free agent left fielder Carlos Lee and center fielder Juan Pierre. Lee hit 37 homers and drove in 116 runs last year between Milwaukee and Texas. If the Giants’ interest in him is genuine, that would all but preclude a return to San Francisco for Bonds.

When surveyed 20 front-office people over the past week on assorted hot stove topics, 15 predicted Bonds would re-sign with San Francisco. Several executives wonder if other clubs are prepared for the inevitable media frenzy as Bonds — who has been dogged by steroid-related controversy — approaches Hank Aaron’s career mark of 755 homers. Bonds finished this season with 734 homers.

The Tigers were mentioned in early speculation because of Bonds’ previous relationship with manager Jim Leyland, but they filled their designated hitter void last week by acquiring Gary Sheffield in a trade with the New York Yankees.

It would be nice to see Bonds finish his career with the Giants, the team with whom he has spent most of his Major League career. Still, given his recent history of injuries, it makes far more sense for him to move on to the American League as a DH, possibly adding two or three years to his longevity.

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