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REPORT: Barry Bonds to sign with Orioles

Jed Jacobsohn

O’s fans waited all winter for a free-agent signing. Any free-agent signing. No, Daniel McCutchen and James Vahalik don’t count. Apparently, Orioles Executive Vice President Dan Duquette has made up for lost time, and in his typical manner, he went way outside the box to do it.

According to various media reports, the Orioles have signed 48-year-old Barry Bonds to a 1-year, $15 million contract, pending a physical:

CHICAGO - The Baltimore Orioles have signed semi-retired slugger Barry Bonds to fill their need at DH for the 2013 season.

Bonds, thought to have been in retirement, had never stopped expressing a desire to play. But at age 48, no team had contacted him in six years. Until Sunday, when Orioles Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations Dan Duquette picked up the phone.

"We have a need for a DH with the injury situation we have, and any chance I get to make this ball club better, I will. I just don’t care what the industry thinks. I care about the standings at the end of the year. That is who you are," Duquette said.

Bonds’ status as an one of the best hitters in the history of the game is without question. He had nine seasons with an OBP over .450, and even in his last season six years ago in 2007 with the Giants, he still had an OPS+ of over 1.000. Dave Gershman at Beyond the Boxscore posed the question just a year ago: Could Barry Bonds still be useful?

Bonds came off a strong season that year. He posted a .429 wOBA, a 158 wRC+, as well as a 4.0 WAR. He wasn't worth that many wins since 2004. Take these stats with a grain of salt though. Bonds hasn't played baseball since the aforementioned 2007 season, and as he noted on April 11th of 2010, if a team contacted him he would not be in shape to play "immediately". However, even with all of the time missed, even with all of the allegations, even though he's out of shape and 46 years old, why couldn't he be a semi-productive bench bat, DH, or platoon partner at worst?

Obviously, Bonds’ age is the biggest risk in this decision. At age 48, he would be one of the oldest hitters to ever trod to the batters box in MLB history. While pitchers such as Jamie Moyer or Nolan Ryan occasionally find success after age 45, it’s almost unheard of for a hitter. In fact, the record for oldest hitter to drive in a run in a MLB game belongs to a pitcher - the aforementioned Jamie Moyer. Almost every at-bat Bonds takes in an O’s uniform will be historic.

Bonds had spent the last six off-seasons waiting for another team to call. He wanted to play after the 2007 season, but found no suitors. The prospect of not just playing again, but for a young team fresh off a playoff appearance, seems to have energized him: "There is a bigger goal here and that is winning games," Bonds said. "That is why I signed on. I am glad to sign on."

Duquette said his meetings with Bonds and his agent went well, and Bonds was noticeably eager to join the team: "He said, 'The Orioles used to show up to play. Now they show up to win,' ... That's a cultural shift. I thought that was a nice compliment," Duquette said.

Duquette refused to disclose details of the contract, which is thought to be just one year in length. It contains an opt-out clause on June 1 if Bonds does not reach 250 plate appearances while on the 25-man roster.

And yes, according to a court ruling last year, Barry Bonds is actually allowed to own baseball bats again.

SOURCE: Chicago Sentinel