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Bonds' deal has an out

January 31, 2007|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

If Barry Bonds is indicted, the San Francisco Giants can void his contract. If they do, the Giants could have to defend themselves in arbitration before Bonds would have to defend himself in a trial.

The contract finalized by Bonds and the Giants late Monday -- for one year at $15.8 million -- stipulates that the team can terminate the deal if he is indicted and that he would not ask the players' union to file a grievance on his behalf. Two baseball sources confirmed the provision, first reported Tuesday by the Associated Press.

Bonds is under investigation for tax evasion and perjury, the latter topic in relation to his testimony in 2003, when he told a grand jury he had never knowingly used steroids.

If he is charged, he almost certainly could play out the season -- and the contract -- before a trial would begin. Given the length of the investigation, a trial would start "no sooner than nine months to a year" from the time of the indictment, said former federal prosecutor Brian Hennigan.

In the interim, Bonds probably would not miss any games. His lawyers could ask that Bonds be excused from some pretrial hearings, Hennigan said, and could ask to arrange the rest on days the Giants played at night, or did not play.

If Bonds is available to play and the Giants nonetheless void his contract, upon an indictment or if Commissioner Bud Selig suspends him pending trial, the union might initiate a grievance, even if Bonds does not ask.

"You're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty," veteran agent Barry Axelrod said. "An indictment doesn't prove you're guilty."

Larry Baer, the Giants' executive vice president, declined to comment. Jeff Borris, the agent for Bonds, would not discuss the contract language but said any player unavailable to play because of criminal conviction would forfeit his guaranteed salary.

"There is nothing special in Barry's contract," Borris said.

The standard contract gives the team the right to void a deal if a player shall "fail, refuse or neglect to render his services." If Bonds is indicted and the contract is terminated but Bonds is available to play, Borris suggested the Giants could be on shaky ground should the matter reach arbitration.

"Clubs often times try to put in unenforceable provisions into players' contracts, provisions contrary to the collective bargaining agreement," Borris said, speaking generally. "Those provisions never survive."

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