LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- There, an official of the Giants finally said it. More than five weeks since Barry Bonds filed for free agency and well into the negotiations between the team and his agent, Jeff Borris, the Giants want Bonds back in San Francisco to play at least the 2007 season. "That's why we're talking to him," Giants general manager Brain Sabean said during his meeting with the media Monday at the end of the first day of the annual Winter Meetings. "Are we talking to him just for the sake of talking to him? Obviously, he can still play baseball and he can still hit a baseball and he still fill a spot in the middle of the lineup as good as anybody." Asked if it made "baseball sense" to bring Bonds back, Sabean said: "Yes."
That should put to rest any conjecture that's developed since the end of a regular season during which the 42-year-old Bonds tied for the club lead with 26 homers, added 74 runs scored and 77 runs batted in, plus led Major League Baseball with a .454 on-base percentage. Bonds is seeking a guaranteed one-year contract, with an option that would vest for another if the second-leading home run hitter in Major League Baseball history remains healthy. Sabean, though, declined to characterize the state of the negotiations, saying only that multiple offers and counteroffers have been exchanged. He said he couldn't speculate whether Bonds would make a decision about his future by the end of these meetings Thursday, although he doesn't expect it to linger much beyond that. "The pace [of the negotiations] has picked up," Sabean said. "I think there's going to be a resolution in time one way or the other. You don't want this to linger. You want to get this over as soon as possible." According to Borris, who held court near midnight ET in the lobby of the hotel serving as the meeting headquarters, the two sides participated in a conference call Monday night, but still came to no resolution. It was a three-way call between Borris and Sabean, both in their respective hotel rooms here, and Larry Baer, the team's chief operating officer, in San Francisco. Just Friday, the Giants declined to offer arbitration to Bonds, leading to this salvo from Borris: "I think it speaks volumes about the Giants' true intentions of bringing him back to the Bay Area for the 2007 season. Barry's obviously not a priority for them. I mean, they were trying to sign [Alfonso] Soriano, [Carlos] Lee, [Gary] Matthews and [Juan] Pierre. They've been trying to trade for Manny Ramirez. Obviously, Barry's not high up on their priority list." Late Monday, Borris, still didn't sound overly optimistic about his negotiations with the Giants.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.