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12/05/07 9:08 PM EST
Agent: Bonds wants to play in 2008
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Despite profound legal troubles and a pending arraignment on Friday in a San Francisco federal court, former Giants slugger and current free agent Barry Bonds still hopes to play the 2008 season, his agent told MLB.com on Wednesday. "He's training currently and he'd like to come back in 2008 to put a World Series ring on his finger," said Jeff Borris, as the annual Winter Meetings began to wind down. "Barry definitely wants to continue playing. So I'm actively pursuing jobs for him from teams that are committed to winning." Bonds was indicted last month on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying about his use of performance-enhancing drugs in testimony given to a grand jury four years ago. He's expected to plead not guilty on Friday at his arraignment in San Francisco, which will begin the legal maneuvering in the case. Although a tentative trial date is scheduled to be set on Friday, Borris believes that the process won't inhibit Major League Baseball's all-time leader with 762 home runs from playing next year. "Barry's legal situation should not conflict with the 2008 baseball season," he said. At least one federal criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the procedure of such cases agrees with Borris' assessment. "Unless Bonds takes a deal, his case won't go to trial before the end of the 2008 season," attorney Keith Scherer told The Hardball Times. "It can take several months -- often more than a year -- to bring a relatively simple case to trial in federal criminal court. Even when both parties expect that the case will eventually end in a plea, it can take that long to get to it. "If Bonds [is] convicted, the court will take some time before holding the sentencing hearing. There is almost no chance this case will be resolved before the end of the 2008 season, so if a team wants to use Bonds, he'll be available." While Bonds may be available to play the 2008 season, it remains to be seen how many teams would pursue the slugger and the public relations baggage that would accompany him. Additionally, the question of whether Bonds wants to play or focus full-time on his legal problems has remained open since the indictment was handed down on Nov. 15. Bonds didn't return a phone message seeking comment, but Borris was definitive about his client returning for a 23rd season. "Barry's 2007 season shows that he still performs at an elite level," Borris said. Borris, who also represents free agents Mike Piazza, Octavio Dotel, Josh Fogg and Shawn Chacon, said he has already spoken with as many as 23 of the 30 clubs about his clients, including Bonds. The Giants, of course, are not one of them, having told Bonds at the end of the season that he wouldn't be re-signed for a 16th season in San Francisco. Meanwhile, Padres general manager Kevin Towers said that Bonds' legal problems are more complicated than the issues facing other players implicated in drug investigations. "I kind of put Barry in a different category," Towers said. "As of now he's been indicted, but he hasn't been convicted of anything. What probably will scare clubs off is the unknown. We kind of need to know what we need to deal with and live with." Friday's hearing will come four months to the day in San Francisco -- Aug. 7 -- that Bonds hit his 756th home run to pass Hank Aaron into the top spot on Major League Baseball's all-time list. He finished his 22nd season four RBIs short of 2,000 and 65 hits away from 3,000 and played his final game for the Giants on Sept. 26 at AT&T Park. Bonds earned $19.3 million in 2007 -- a $15.8 million base and $3.5 million in incentive bonuses for surpassing 450 plate appearances. Borris said he's convinced that Bonds can still help some club. "I don't think any general manager can look me right in the face and say that Barry couldn't make an on-field contribution to their club," Borris said. "He's as good or better than any offensive player out there in either league."
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.