LOUISVILLE, KY — LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The new ownership group of the San Francisco Giants finally got outfielder Barry Bonds under contract yesterday, completing the six-year, $43.75 million deal that current club owner Bob Lurie had refused to guarantee.
Safeway CEO Peter Magowan, who heads up the group that is expected to take possession of the team in January, guaranteed the contract even if the sale of the club is not approved. In that event, Lurie apparently would have the option of assuming the contract or allowing Bonds to sign with another team, but in either case Bonds would be assured the full amount of the contract.
"This agreement will make Barry Bonds the best-paid player in the game," Magowan said. "It is a lot of money, but there is only one Barry Bonds."
It is a seemingly perfect match. Bonds is the son of former Giants star Bobby Bonds and the godson of Hall of Fame center fielder Willie Mays. The Giants even have gotten permission from Mays to allow Bonds to wear his No. 24, even though it has been retired by the team.
"I want to say how excited I am to be able to go back home and sharesomething with my family and the people I grew up with," said an emotional Bonds. "I was born on July 24, 1964, and 24 has always been my favorite number. It's great to have grown up with such a great hero and then have the chance to keep his name alive. I want to thank the Giants for talking to Willie and allowing this to happen."
The contract broke Cal Ripken's record for total guaranteed money by more than $11 million and gives Bonds an average annual salary of nearly $7.3 million.
It was a long time coming. The Giants seemed prepared to open the winter meetings with a major splash Saturday night, but their cryptic announcement that Bonds had agreed tentatively to a contract turned out to be the prelude to a three-day soap opera.
Bonds showed up in the winter meetings press room the next night for what he thought would be a routine news conference to announce the record deal, but the announcement was scuttled when current Giants owner Bob Lurie angrily asserted that he had not approved the deal.
"You have to have control of the team to sign a ballplayer," Lurie said, "and they don't have a team. We do not want Barry Bonds to be a San Francisco Giant at that price."
His objection held up the deal another 48 hours, while lawyers for Bonds and the new ownership group worked to construct a contract that would secure Bonds for the team without the backing of the club's present ownership.
"If the [sale] is not approved, it would be up to Mr. Lurie to decide if Barry Bonds remains with the team," said Larry Baer, the vice president of the new ownership group. "There is a mechanism by which Barry could play for another team if that happened."
Baer and Magowan would not get into the particulars, except to say that the contract is a very complicated legal document that required several days and several lawyers to complete.
"I think as you all know, Mr. Lurie didn't want to assume this contract," Magowan said. "What we have done is satisfy Mr. Lurie that if we don't end up with the team, he will not have to satisfy Barry Bonds' contract."
The approval of the Giants sale is expected to be rubber-stamped in January, but nothing is guaranteed until the owners vote.
Nevertheless, the new ownership group is moving forward in its efforts to put the Giants back on the map. Bob Quinn was hired as general manager last week and immediately began the search for a new manager. The acquisition of Bonds solidifies a lineup that already includes established stars Will Clark and Matt Williams.
"With this one move, we feel we have transformed the team on the field and sent a clear message to the Northern California baseball community that the new ownership group is committed to this franchise," Magowan said.
The size of the contract may have come as a shock to some of the other owners, but Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig -- who also heads Major League Baseball's 11-member Executive Council -- was not critical of the deal at a media briefing yesterday.
"I've talked to Peter Magowan a lot and Bob Lurie a lot and I'm glad this situation has been settled," he said. "There are 28 teams and they all have to make their own judgments."
The details of the record $43.75 million, six-year contract agreed to yesterday between Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants. Information was obtained by The Associated Press from player and management sources:
%1993.. .. .. .. $4 million
1994.. .. .. .. $4.75 million
1995.. .. .. .. $7.75 million
1996.. .. .. .. $8 million
1997.. .. .. .. $8.25 million
1998.. .. .. .. $8.5 million
Note: $500,000 of each year's salary will be deferred with interest at the prime rate. It will be paid from 1999 to 2008.
1 MVP award.. .. .. $100,000
2 MVP awards.. .. ..$250,000
3 MVP awards.. .. ..$500,000
4 MVP awards.. .. ..$1 million
* Money is guaranteed.