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Could Barry Bonds Still Make a Comeback?

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In our latest podcast, we recieved an email regarding the top ten best free agents on the market. We answered the email, and I said that in my opinion, Barry Bonds was one of the top ten best. Barry Bonds has not yet filled out his retirement papers, and there are reasons to believe that it's not the end for him. However, with a hearing scheduled for March 21st, you wonder how that will affect Bonds' future let alone baseball career.

On September 21st of the 2007 season, the Giants made a statement regarding the fact that they would not keep Bonds as free agency would soon approach. As he eclipsed Hank Aaron for the all-time home run lead, it looked as though Bonds would call it quits -- he did not. Bonds' agent Jeff Borris made comments at the time that seemed extremely blunt. For example, "we anticipate interest from just about every major league team", among other statements. That obviously did not happen, and as the 43 year old did prove that year that he was still a productive major leaguer, teams were reluctant to have Bonds in their everyday lineup.

But why not? Was it his physical status? No interest in a player with "baggage?" Keeping a suspected former PED user away from a group of 25 players? Simply, the Jermaine Dye effect?

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? 

Not so long ago, many thought Bonds' reluctance to fill out his retirement papers was largely in part to delaying his hall of fame clock. Genius idea if you ask me, but there has to be some motivation to return. As it stands now, Barry is 65 hits away from the 3,000 club, 4 RBI's away from 2,000, and 38 homers away from 800. Thus, personal achievements. In comparison, Jim Thome is still playing for a chance to win a world series, something Barry Bonds has not done. Thome also claimed to be on the hunt for 600 home runs, a goal that's kept him going for a while now.

Again though, the age factor.

Julio Franco, who played for 26 consecutive seasons, retired at the age of 49. Though he kept himself in shape, notice how I said "consecutive." To repeat, Bonds has not played baseball in over three years. Jamie Moyer, a pitcher, is currently recovering from Tommy John Surgery at age 48. Though pitching is completely different than swinging the bat everyday, Moyer plans to return. Thus, he'll have to not only get back in to full shape, but do so at age 49 or 50.

These quotes are from unnamed sources and one of them, a former player who is the same age as Barry Bonds:

As someone only 10 years younger than Jose [Canseco] , I would think a month or two would be fine depending on how fat he is now.

If he comes back his only potential value is as a DH or pinch hitter. Considering that means he won't have to play the field he could be in shape to swing a bat pretty quickly. Plus, it's not as if he sits around eating salsa and chips--the guy already works out. I'd say a few weeks in the cages and he'd have endurance built up to hit. The bigger issues are bat speed and timing. The latter would come within a few weeks, the former may be gone forever.

Depends on how out of shape they are? Pitcher...position player? How long they've been out? Could never happen. Could take 4-6 months?

Barry Bonds could maybe post an above average OBP tomorrow.

Although I hate to make this comparison, it appears as though Jose Canseco is not only in shape, but ready to play for a Major League team. Although I have no doubt that he couldn't be an above average major league everyday player as he says. His claims have been backed up by video and a source of mine.

With all of this said, the question isn't so much can Bonds swing a bat at age 46, but can he return after three years? Also, does he have the motivation. Many who I've questioned truly believe that Bonds could easily produce a .400 OBP in 200-300 or so plate appearances. Could Vladimir Guerrero or Russell Branyan do so? Imagine Bonds in a ballpark such as Tropicana Field. With all of his splash hits at age 43, you have to imagine he could bang 15-20 out in the AL East. Maybe more. But regression from his 2007 season would only mean he'd still be an above average major leaguer. Likely a DH at this point, many teams could use such productivity. 

Of course though, this is all speculation, as Bonds' agent insisted he would not play again. However, Bonds didn't rule out playing again at this time last year. It takes two to tango though, and teams have not called Bonds, so who's to say they would continue to not bother to call the Bonds household. It would be a great story though, to see a clean Bonds, come back and convince skeptics that he is hall of fame deserving, or at least deserving of an job. Even with "everything that happened", he deserves to have his career end right, and many would agree.