The tussle with Bonds drew criticism from owner Peter Magowan and prompted speculation that Kent, who will be a free agent after this season, would be traded. There was only one catch: Kent was so hot at the plate that San Francisco couldn't afford to send him away. After a slow start following the injury, which caused him to miss the Giants' first four games of the season, Kent had hit .400 from June 1 through Sunday, the second-best average in the NL in that time. Overall he was third in the league in hitting (.332) and fourth in doubles (29).
Kent has been especially hot since manager Dusty Baker flipped him and Bonds in the order in late June, batting Kent third and Bonds cleanup. In his first 22 games in the third slot Kent hit .453. As injured players started to pile up—Bonds, fellow outfielders Reggie Sanders and Tsuyoshi Shinjo and catcher Benito Santiago were either on the DL or missed significant time last week—and the Giants fell six games behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West, Kent, the National league MVP in 2000, was the player keeping the team afloat. (On Sunday the Giants acquired outfielder Kenny Lofton from the White Sox for two minor leaguers.)
Kent said earlier this season that he was intent on testing the free-agent market, but he has lowered his expectations of how lucrative that market might be. Last week he said he would be willing to accept a one-year deal, with the Giants or another team. "The way things are going, I don't think there will be any big free-agent contracts," Kent said, referring to the uncertain labor situation. "Ill be a 35-year-old middle infielder, and I don't think owners will be paying a lot of money."