A King Without a Kingdom
Where should the home run champ land?
Posted: Monday January 28, 2008 4:51PM; Updated: Tuesday January 29, 2008 10:18AM
There's an elephant in baseball's living room. With pitchers and catchers due to report in less than three weeks, most teams have finished building their 2008 squads. There are still a fair number of available free agents, but most are old, infirm, or otherwise unproductive. There is one glaring exception, the last big name free agent who remains unsigned: Barry Bonds.
Bonds was indicted on perjury charges in November, and those charges, stemming from testimony regarding his alleged performance-enhancing drug use, combined with his age (43) and deteriorating knees, have kept him from finding a new team.
Still, he led the major leagues in walks and on-base percentage last year, and only five other players hit a home run more often than he did in 2007. Bonds was also fifth in Baseball Prospectus's Marginal Lineup Value rate among all players with 400 or more plate appearances in 2007, and 19th in the majors in their cumulative Value Over Replacement Player despite his reduced playing time.
Put simply, Bonds remains a difference-maker and is sure to have a significant impact upon whichever divisional race he enters. What's more, he's the perfect win-now addition as he's surely looking for nothing more than a one-year contract and can be discarded after the season at no cost. That said, not every team is close enough to contention to benefit from his production, and few contenders are likely to be willing to endure the assorted distractions and disapprovals that will accompany Bonds to his new team. Here's a look at where the Bonds market stands now.
Marlins and Pirates: Hopeless.
Royals, Rays, and Nationals: Developing young teams that are not yet ready to contend.
Giants: Not only just as bad, but they have already parted ways with Bonds.
Orioles: In the early stages of rebuilding.
Athletics: Before Bonds' perjury indictment was handed down, it was assumed that this particular pachyderm would sign with the team that wears his kind on their sleeves, but since then the A's have undergone a rebuilding process of their own, which should end their brief experimentation with fading Hall of Famers at DH.
Reds and Brewers: Simply put, they don't have room for Bonds. The Reds have the potential for an extremely productive outfield with Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr. and baseball's top prospect, rookie center fielder Jay Bruce. Having signed Mike Cameron to play center, the Brewers are also full, as Cameron will keep Corey Hart in right field and push Bill Hall to third base, thereby allowing the team to move Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun's stone glove and monster bat to left field.
Long Shots Who Needn't Bother
Red Sox: The defending world champions may be the one team in baseball that doesn't need the injection of production Bonds would provide to be considered the preseason favorite for another title. They also already have the best DH in baseball in David Ortiz and four starting outfielders.
Blue Jays: Toronto has room in left field -- Bonds is an easy improvement over the platoon of lefty Matt Stairs and righty Reed Johnson -- but the Rogers Centre's artificial turf likely rules out the possibility of Bonds playing the field there, and he is blocked at DH by the unmovable, and immobile, Frank Thomas.
Twins: The idea of the Twins loading up to make one last run for a title with Johan Santana is a nice fantasy, but even with Bonds in the lineup, they'd lack the team to make it happen, and the Twins aren't exactly known for making big free-agent splashes.