Bonds to Stay With Giants

Thursday, December 20th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ With Barry Bonds back at Pacific Bell Park next spring, the waters of McCovey Cove will remain dangerous for unwary boaters for at least another year.

Baseball's new home run king surveyed the free-agent market and decided to stay with the San Francisco Giants, accepting the team's offer of salary arbitration Wednesday _ several hours before a midnight deadline.

Now considered a signed player, the four-time Most Valuable Player could wind up with a one-year contract worth at least $20 million. Whatever the eventual value of his deal, it's certain to smash the previous record for an arbitration award _ the $8.2 million won earlier this year by Atlanta's Andruw Jones.

The Giants, whose decision to avoid a bidding war for Bonds' services might have saved them a great deal of cash, quietly celebrated the return of their franchise player.

``We know we've got him for at least one season,'' assistant general manager Ned Colletti said. ``It's a huge plus for the club.''

In the end, Bonds' comfort with the city and the team he has represented for nine years _ and a beautiful park that appeals to his left-handed power stroke _ were more compelling than the dicey proposition of an uncertain free-agent market.

``In all due respect for Barry Bonds, he is from here. It's home to him,'' Colletti said. ``He's had a great career here, and most likely wants to stay here and finish it here.''

The 37-year-old superstar captivated San Francisco this year, hitting 73 home runs while breaking Babe Ruth's single-season marks for slugging percentage and walks in one of the most amazing offensive performances in baseball history. Even Bonds said he couldn't believe what he accomplished in his 16th major league season.

Bonds hoped to earn a big contract with a club on the verge of a championship run, but the outfielder wasn't showered with lucrative offers. Instead, the only public bid came earlier this month from the Giants, a proposal said to be worth $72 million for four years _ with much of the money deferred.

Bonds still would prefer to sign a multiyear deal, said his agent, Scott Boras.

``Barry will continue to work toward that,'' Boras said Wednesday.

If the sides don't agree to a deal, they will exchange proposed salaries on Jan. 18. A hearing before a panel of three arbitrators would be scheduled for the first three weeks of February.

There was early speculation that the New York Yankees and Mets might be interested, but Bonds' price _ he was said to be seeking $100 million for five years _ his age and his iconoclastic reputation probably scared away potential suitors.

``Barry had many things to consider,'' Boras said.

The Giants didn't know Bonds would accept until Wednesday afternoon. Boras said there was at least one other bid.

``Scott told me he had had a five-year offer,'' Colletti said. ``I take him at his word. I don't know from where or from who.''

In the final season of a $30.7 million, three-year extension, Bonds broke loose for a jaw-dropping power display. Besides the 73 homers, he had an .863 slugging percentage and 177 walks, batting .328 with 137 RBIs.

The Giants hope they'll satisfy Bonds' desire to play for a contender. Earlier this month, they re-signed right-handed starter Jason Schmidt and left-handed reliever Jason Christiansen to solidify their pitching staff.

Last weekend, San Francisco traded inconsistent left-hander Shawn Estes to the Mets for Tsuyoshi Shinjo, who should become the Giants' everyday center fielder, and utility infielder Desi Relaford.

The Giants might add more players to a team that finished 90-72 last season, barely missing the playoffs behind eventual World Series champ Arizona.