No deal for Bonds yet, Giants owner Lurie says Contract to wait on sale of club

December 07, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Free-agent outfielder Barry Bonds arrived at the winter meetings yesterday and showed up at the media work room for a news conference to make official his six-year, $43 million contract with the San Francisco Giants. But minutes before he was to take the stage, the deal was thrown into limbo by Giants owner Bob Lurie.

The news conference was scuttled and the record contract was thrown into doubt when Lurie said that the club's new ownership group did not have the authority to close the deal. Several hours later, there were indications that the deal would be made final today, but not before Lurie had confused the issue and raised questions about the impending sale of the team.

"They don't have a ballclub," he said. "They have to have control of the club to sign a ballplayer. If the deal [to sell the club] fell through, we don't want him as a San Francisco Giant at that price. We will not give approval to sign him at $43 million."

The deal apparently was negotiated between agent Dennis Gilbert and Safeway chief executive officer Peter Magowan, who heads up the group that has agreed to buy the Giants from Lurie for $100 million. But the sale has not been ratified by the other major-league owners, so Lurie remains in control of the club.

Gilbert and Larry Baer, the executive vice president of the new ownership group, huddled with their attorneys for several hours and came back to say that the deal would be completed today.

"We ran into a legal snag, and I'm not a lawyer," Gilbert said, "so we'll let our lawyers work on it and we'll talk about it tomorrow."

When the tentative deal was announced Saturday night, it was )) assumed that Lurie had given his blessing to the contract, but he said last night that he did not.

"If the [sale of the club] goes through as it should," he said, "they'll have Barry Bonds, but we're not going to sign him."

The dramatic turn of events has led to speculation that the owners may be trying to overrule the megabucks contract, which exceeds their unwritten five-year term limit and exceeded Cal Ripken's record guarantee by more than $10 million.

If that is true, they could block the finalization of the deal by postponing ratification of the sale of the team. Bonds and Gilbert could counter with some kind of legal action, but it seems more likely that they would withdraw from the agreement and resume negotiations with the New York Yankees, who recently offered him a five-year contract worth $36 million.

In another possible scenario, Magowan's group could sign Bonds to a personal-services contract and guarantee the $43 vTC million until the sale of the team is approved. But then he would risk angering the other owners enough to endanger the ratification of the sale.

Baer said that it was nothing so complex.

"It's just a delay," he said. "There's nothing to say that it's not going to happen. We're confident that it will be worked out."

The normally uneventful trading convention has turned into a theater of the absurd. The Bonds deal was announced Saturday night, but a Giants spokesman said that it would not be final until the contract language had been completed and that no one would have any comment until then.

The announcement seemed curious, but it would not be apparent why until nearly 24 hours later, when Bonds left the media room and Major League Baseball spokesman Jim Small announced that the Giants had never scheduled a news conference.

The news conference had been called, but it had been called by the future Giants management.

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