Before the season began, I thought, without question, and so did Barry Bonds, that the new home-run champion would have a job this summer.
Coming off an All-Star season in which he broke the all-time home-run record of 755, belting 28 to end the season with a career 762 homers, Bonds was a free agent with an unsurpassed statistical resume.
The seven-time MVP and former Gold Glove left fielder was unceremoniously let go by the Giants after a 22-year career, the last 15 of those years with San Francisco, and was hoping to find a job with an American League team in need of a bat. But with his numerous links to use of human growth hormone, he also has an unsurpassed resume of unpopularity.
Six months later, it seems there are plenty of teams, especially in the AL, that could use a good lefty hitter at this point in the season, but none of which have contacted or made much effort to go after Bonds. His agent has repeatedly said there have been no offers, and it doesn't appear as if there will be any for Bonds this year. It has gone so far that an investigation has taken place in baseball for possible collusion among general managers.
I know that if I am a GM right now, I would be on the phone with Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, working out any possible deal that I could. There are plenty of reasons to do this and so few not to.
At the top of that list is that Bonds will provide any team with instant offense. There is no question that the 43-year-old still has some power after last year's showing, and he can make any pitcher fear for his life. He is still good for 15-20 home runs the rest of the year along with 30-40 RBI. Those are good numbers for a guy who would be just virtually picked up off the street and added into the lineup.
Bonds will also provide a spark of energy in the clubhouse, as well, despite the fact that he is seen as a nuisance to most clubs. Sound like I'm contradicting myself? Well, I'm not, entirely. Bonds' bat in the lineup has the potential and could give any team instant power and more runs, which will provide more energy and enthusiasm in any clubhouse instantaneously. Any club that is struggling for offense now and looking for an extra push to take pressure off its pitching staff (ahem, Yankees) would gain a lot of energy in its clubhouse with Bonds.
Bonds also has the ability to act as a leader in any clubhouse being a 22-year veteran and has plenty of baseball experience and knowledge that would be beneficial for any young players to watch. While the Giants may be glad to have dumped the veteran out of San Francisco, any of the young players will tell you how big of an impact Bonds had on them, going back to the Candlestick Park days in the '90s.
Just ask Fred Lewis, F.P. Santangelo, Marvin Benard, and Armando Rios, all of whom learned and played with Bonds. It wasn't the young guys that couldn't get along with Bonds' selfish demeanor, it was the veterans who were jealous of his accomplishments and could never amount their careers to anything great. Just look at Marquis Grissom, Ellis Burks, Jose Cruz Jr., Kenny Lofton, and Reggie Sanders. There is no question that a team could use Bonds in its clubhouse as a leader to help develop younger players.
Bonds will also have a huge advantage playing in the American League, as he won't have to worry about playing the field because he can serve as the designated hitter. This runs a far smaller chance of injury and almost guarantees that Bonds will remain healthy for the remainder of the year. He's a had a lot of time off, and asking Bonds to come back for the second half of the year would be no problem for him despite all of the nagging injuries he's had to put up with throughout his career.
The final reason that signing Bonds would be a great decision is he'd likely come cheap. There is little question that Bonds would come as a great deal for the remainder of the season, probably around $5 million. That is a steal for any team looking to push itself into the playoffs and compete for a pennant.
The reasons not to sign Bonds have included the fact that it's time to move on, there is too much baggage with him, he's a nuisance in the clubhouse, and he wants too much money. People have also said that he is getting what he deserves after a career of shutting down fans over and over. While some of these allegations might be true, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Where Bonds would sign and what would be a great fit for him remains unknown. We know it would be an American League team and one in contention for the playoffs. New York, Boston, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Minnesota, Detroit, Anaheim, and Oakland would be the only possibilities.
New York desperately needs a bat to take the place of Hideki Matsui, who is going to be on the DL for a long time, as well as to take some pressure off their pitching staff, which is having to carry the team. Boston could use another bat, though its situation is not as drastic as New York's. The absence of David Ortiz has done nothing but allow J.D. Drew to break through and begin to earn his paycheck.
Bonds also said he would never play for the city of Boston a few years ago, but times have changed. Tampa Bay could definitely use the powerful bat in the lineup as the Rays have lost seven straight and are in desperate need of some help. If they want to stay in contention with the Red Sox, signing Bonds would be a huge help.
The White Sox could also use a bat, as they have a strong rotation backed by a solid bullpen, but are trying to hold off the Twins and Tigers to take the division. The White Sox might not have what it takes with Carlos Quentin, Nick Swisher, A.J. Pierzynski, and Joe Crede all underperforming, so Bonds could be the answer they've been looking for.
Minnesota is unlikely, as the Twins main concern is their pitching, but if they can't go out and get a pitcher to add, why not add some offense to score more runs?
Detroit's problem is similar to Minnesota's and it is hard to believe that we would even be talking about the Tigers in need of a bat with the lineup they have, but they are going to need all the help they can get as they try to take the division.
Anaheim wants to run away with the division as it is holding onto a six-game lead over Oakland. It hasn't been their hitting, but their pitching, led by John Lackey, Jered Weaver, John Garland, and Ervin Santana, that has kept the Angels in first place. Vladimir Guererro, Torii Hunter, and Garrett Anderson have completely underperformed, so adding Bonds to the lineup could be the missing piece for the Angels.
The A's have had to deal with so many injuries it is unbelievable that they are still even in contention. Their entire lineup is diminished with injuries to Eric Chavez, Frank Thomas, Bobby Crosby, Mike Sweeney, and Ryan Sweeney. They have pitched really well, but they need some offensive help and Bonds might not be all they need, but it is definitely a start if they want to stay in the pennant chase and compete for the division. As you can see, there are many teams that could use Bonds in their lineup to make a second-half push.
It's hard to believe that Bonds is not on a roster right now with all of the holes on teams trying to compete for a playoff spot. I know if I was a GM, I would have Bonds on my team.
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