Yankees haven't ruled out Bonds

Publish date:

New Yankees Boss Hank Steinbrenner is said to be at least open to the idea of bringing embattled and unemployed superstar Barry Bonds to the Yankees. However, other top club decisionmakers are less enamored of the idea, people familiar with the Yankees' thinking say, after the team's top brass met in Tampa to discuss Bonds and other potential targets.

While it is said that "nobody ruled (Bonds) out completely'' after the lengthy debate of the pros and cons of Bonds on Thursday, Yankees people still call a Bonds signing "unlikely'' or even "highly unlikely.''

While one person close to the new' Yankees leader claimed, "Hank wants to do it,'' top Yankees officials say that no vote was taken at Thursday's trade meeting, and that no one lined up firmly in one camp or the other.

Instead, the decision was made on Thursday to table the talk until after the July 31 trade deadline while the team pursues other offensive options.

Hank Steinbrenner is said to have taken a major part or even the lead in discussions among club higherups about Bonds on Thursday, laying out the ramifications of a Bonds singing in terms of the clubhouse, the potential circus, the perception of a signing and branding aspects, all important issues to baseball's most storied franchise.

Cashman and some other Yankees decisionmakers are believed not to favor Bonds for numerous reasons, from his age to his time off to the possible circus to the federal investigation hanging over Bonds' head (an issue that appears will not be resolved until next year, at the earliest).

In addition to the two Steinbrenners and Cashman, club president Randy Levine, senior VP Felix Lopez, VP of baseball operations Mark Newman and top scout Gene Michael also took part in Thursday's high-powered meeting.

Even if Hank ultimately decides he wouldn't mind taking the plunge, he may defer to other top Yankees decisionmakers. It is believed general manager Brian Cashman has a far less favorable view of the idea of bringing in Bonds. Plus, Hank's brother Hal, who is Hank's equal in the organization, has generally proven to be more conservative and to this point has frequently lined up with Cashman on major issues, including the decision to cut off the pursuit of Johan Santana once Andy Pettitte agreed to return last winter.

Hank Steinbrenner has in many ways become the public voice of the organization, but he hasn't seemed inclined to over-rule his younger brother. Hank is said by friends to be more the risktaker that his father, George, was, but he hasn't appeared quite as decisive about acting on his impulses. George Steinbrenner over-ruled his front office, which included Cashman, to sign Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden in the '90s, among other major moves in his long tenure as Yankees owner.

"I think Barry would be a perfect fit for them," said Jeff Borris, Bonds' agent, by phone. "He could make the difference between the Yankees going to the World Series or not making the playoffs at all. I anxiously await hearing from them.''

Borris said that Bonds would take only "a week to ten days'' of facing live pitching to get into playing shape.

Bonds has yet to receive an offer from any team after the Giants decided not to re-sign him following the 2007 season in which be broke Hank Aaron's alltime home-run record. Bonds, who turned 44 on Thursday, hit 28 home runs in 2007, finishing with a .480 on-base percentage and .565 slugging percentage.

The Yankees have looked at Pirates outfielders Jason Bay and Xavier Nady, and Braves star first baseman Mark Teixiera could become available before the July 31 trade deadline. Complicating matters is Jorge Posada's intention to try to remain on the roster despite his shoulder injury; if he can contribute, the need for a DH could be lessened.