Barry Bonds, Seattle Mariner
It’s a little strange to me that everyone is so eager to say that the M’s won’t under any circumstances take on Bonds as DH. They’ve brought on Al Martin, after all, and Carl Everett, who was no PR fun either. They had Ben Christensen in the system, and he almost killed a guy on the field for no good reason.
The M’s clearly believe they can win now, and whether or not we agree with that, they could if they wanted sign Bonds, giving up only cash, and upgrade their offense hugely.
Bonds, under various projection systems:
Bill James .284/.491/.588
All of them figure his play somewhat limited (300-400 PAs), which is obviously an issue. And his defense has been steadily declining (but it’s still not as bad as Raul’s). You could either DH him or play him in left, moving Ibanez to DH or wherever.
Whereas Vidro’s a .280/.345/.389. That’s a huge drop from even the worst Bonds projection.
If we take the team on their word that they’re close to the playoffs, then it should absolutely be worth it to sign Bonds and figure out how to make room later (Vidro as 1B? PH? Waiver-wire fodder?). It’s only cash, cash they’d make back if they made it to the playoffs.
Why not do it, then?
Is it more important to the team to maintain their steroid-free image? That seems unlikely, given the huge number of positive steroid tests in the organization. The damage is done. You could argue that Bonds is a particular lightning rod for bad PR and steroid criticism and hysteria, and there’s really no counter to that — he certainly is. He does and will continue to attract more attention than anyone else.
Is Bonds such a huge clubhouse cancer? Does the team really believe that the negative clubhouse energy from having Bonds would outweigh his contributions offensively, that a winning team with a good offense would have worse chemistry and thus drag itself down into losing, compared to a losing team with a bad offense that would lift itself up through the power of rainbows and unicorns?
And isn’t that McLaren’s job, to ensure that the team plays well, that its personalities are managed? What are they paying him for if they can’t bring in an upgrade like Bonds and make it work?
Is Vidro that valuable? There’s no way anyone can rationally believe that. Even if they fill the rest of Bonds’ time with a random AAA guy you’ll do better, and a lot better, and if you can keep Bonds in the lineup by being careful with his usage through the year, you could do quite well. Plus you dodge Vidro’s option.
Is the money too dear? No one knows what he’s asking for, but there’s no way it’s that much more than what they just threw at Silva. And Bonds would be a far greater upgrade. If this is the reason, every criticism that the team’s more interested in turning steady profits than truly competing is validated.
Is it because he might be headed to jail? There’s a ton of those guys, and they’re all at camp. Depending on the deal he’s willing to strike, you might be able to reduce that risk, but even if it’s a straight salary concession (you get him at 1y, $10m with the understanding you’ll be paying for his play in the penal league if things go bad) that contract is still a huge value if you get that half-season out of him.
If I’m honest, of course, I know that they’re not going to sign him, that they’re happy with Vidro and last year’s hollow high-average performance, and they think they can compete without Bonds. I know, I know.
There’s another possibility here, of course, that I haven’t seen mentioned, which is that Selig’s made it clear that what he’d really like is for Bonds to go gently into retirement, without another year of court battles and headlines. The M’s, as we’ve noted, have historically heeded the whims of the commissioner. I don’t know that we need that to explain why teams are passing, though.
|Team||DH||LF||Non-Selig reason not to sign Bonds|
|Angels||Anderson/Morales||Sarge Jr||Want M’s to feel like they have a chance — they’re so cute when they’re hopeful|
|Athletics||Cust||Brown||No money, rebuilding|
|Blue Jays||Thomas||?||Given legal problems, Bonds wishes to minimize border crossings|
|Devil Rays||Gomes||Crawford||As long as they’re rebuilding, might as well be cheap|
|Mariners||Turbo||Ibanez||It’s all about being a family experience, Bonds doesn’t say "family-friendly" to them.|
|Orioles||Huff||Scott/Payton||Angelos heard Bonds had some kind of degenerative hip condition.|
|Rangers||Catalanotto||Murphy?||(With Bradley out, I’m not sure how playing time will end up.)|
|Red Sox||Ortiz||Manny||No point.|
|Tigers||Sheffield||Jones||Feel further offensive upgrade wouldn’t increase playoff chances.|
|White Sox||Thome||Quentin||Quentin’s a good player, and Ozzie feels Bonds wouldn’t sign on for new run-first, run-often strategy.|
|Yankees||Giambi||Damon||Already will be struggling to get Matsui playing time.|
|Astros||—||Lee||Not an upgrade.|
|Braves||—||Diaz||Diaz may outperform Bonds next year.|
|Brewers||—||Braun||Not an upgrade.|
|Cardinals||—||Duncan||Not a large enough upgrade to justify headache. Also, LaRussa known for not tolerating players with steroid issues.|
|Cubs||—||Soriano||Not enough of an upgrade.|
|Diamondbacks||—||Byrnes||Not enough of an upgrade to dump Byrnes|
|Dodgers||—||Pierre||They can’t even figure out how to get Kemp and Ethier playing time, they’re not bringing in another LF.|
|Mets||—||Alou||They feel Bonds wouldn’t be able to handle the media pressure.|
|Phillies||—||Burrell||Stuck with Pat.|
|Pirates||—||Bay||Not anough of an upgrade|
|Reds||—||Dunn||Not enough of an upgrade|
|Rockies||—||Holliday||Bonds not the kind of clean-cut, good-character player they swoon over.|
The list of teams that have $10m to spend and could clearly use Bonds is pretty slim: it’s the Blue Jays, the Mariners, the Orioles, maybe the Padres, and the Rangers. The Tigers could use him in left, but they don’t have a lot of incentive to make that extra upgrade. The Orioles and Rangers probably don’t see themselves as in contention, and Bonds is probably a one-year stop-gap piece. So the Blue Jays, Padres, and Mariners — it doesn’t take much to close the market there.
The list of teams that might sign him if his price approached free is larger: the A’s, the Devil Rays, the Marlins, the Royals, the Twins. And at some point, if he’s near free, everyone can sign him and upgrade their bench. We can reasonably assume Bonds’ price isn’t going to go down to major league minimum, though, and so whoever gets him will have to see that they’re getting $10m+ of value out of that half-season, and that they’ll be able to justify the risk by making a run at the playoffs, which really does limit it to teams in contention.
The Mariners would have to come to their senses about how they value several players already on their roster, swallow a huge contract no matter which one ends up getting cut, and be willing to take a lot of public criticism all while not realizing they’re probably still a lot farther out from contention than they think.
So no, it’s not going to happen, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t help them win games this year.
Later: Griffey! Seriously! There’s no need to talk about Griffey here! Really! Stop! Don’t do it!