Giants' free agents not officially signed

Giants' free agents not officially signed

NEW YORK -- Though all the focus recently has been on Barry Bonds, the San Francisco Giants have not officially signed any of the nine free agents they came to agreements with this offseason.

Bonds, who reached an agreement in principle Dec. 7 to return to the Giants in 2007, is no closer to signing the one-year, $16 million deal today than he was a month ago. Part of the problem, mirroring all the other players, is a change in the standard guarantee language rewritten this offseason by San Francisco's department of baseball operations in each of the contracts, said Bobby Evans, an assistant general manager, who is handling the details of all these deals.

With the opening of Spring Training just a little more than five weeks away, Evans said the Giants have signed letters of agreement with eight of their nine free agents, even though the contracts have yet to be inked.

"The one that doesn't have all the boxes checked off is Barry," Evans said. 'We do not have a complete signed letter of agreement. At Barry's request, Barry wanted to have all the language finalized before anything was signed and announced. That's the difference. That's why we haven't announced Barry's signing nor put him on the 40-man roster."

Indeed, Bonds said recently that he's not signing the contract until "they've dotted all the I's and crossed all the T's."

Aside from Bonds, the Giants are bringing back Pedro Feliz, Ray Durham and Steve Kline from last year's squad. So far, they have added Barry Zito, Dave Roberts, Rich Aurilia, Ryan Klesko and Bengie Molina.

Jeff Borris, Bonds' agent, said that he forwarded a signed letter of agreement to the Giants confirming all of the economic terms on the night last month when his client decided to return to San Francisco for a 15th season.

John Boggs, the agent for Roberts, and Barry Axelrod, the agent for Aurilia, said the standard guarantee provided by the Giants varied so widely from years past or other clubs that the wording was unacceptable to their clients. Both have sent revamped copies to Evans and are expecting a response.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, like a pre-existing injury or off-field issue, all MLB free-agent contracts are guaranteed for the duration. Boilerplate language is offered by MLB's labor relations department, Evans said, but the individual clubs are free to make their own stipulations if those are agreed upon by the particular free agent. The Players Association also has a say in the wording of a standard contract.

Evans said he's waiting to receive the revised language from all the agents before taking another stab at the wording. About half of the agents have responded, Evans said.

"We want to keep the language as close to the same as possible, "Evans said about the new contracts. "That's why I've been waiting for feedback from every agent before taking a run at it again. I don't want to agree with one set of language with one agent and have a difference with somebody else. We're trying to keep it all as similar as possible."

Incorporated in the language are specific references to legal problems and a list of off-the-field activities that would make the guarantee in each deal moot if any infraction happened to occur.

"I've signed a few deals for Richie with the Giants," said Axelrod about Aurilia, the infielder who played his first nine seasons in San Francisco before going elsewhere. "And I've never seen anything like this. This is a vast departure. We sent them back a response with what we're willing to accept."

With the departure of Ned Colletti to Los Angeles prior to this past season, Evans has now taken over the contract duties once handled by the man who is now the general manager of the Dodgers. Evans said that the new language is simply an attempt at keeping the Giants "contemporary" with what's being used around the rest of Major League Baseball.

"What it comes down to is how some of those things are worded," Evans said. "Things like prohibited activities. We don't want our players participating in certain team sports. Things like that. The list is longer than it has been in the past. This is not legalese. This is spelled out in plain English. It's easy to understand. It's a lot less ambiguous."

Bonds is the only player in baseball currently under investigation for perjury by a federal grand jury, an ongoing tentacle of the raid on the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in 2003. But Evans said that the Bonds situation has nothing to do with the Giants revising their guarantee language. He also added that Bonds received the same standard guarantee language as the rest of the free agents in the process of signing contracts with the Giants.

"I don't see how the negotiations with Barry has anything to do with any of the others," Evans said. "I'm trying to be consistent, fair, administratively conscientious and get something that everybody is comfortable with."

Borris declined to comment on the depth of the problems he's having with the Giants about the language in Bonds' new contract. He did say he was relatively certain that the standard guarantee language submitted to him was the same as what the Giants gave to the other eight free agents.

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.