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Giants wanted Bonds long before signing him

SF drafted slugger out of high school in 1982, but couldn't agree to a deal
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Had the Giants signed Barry Bonds when they initially intended to, his career path might have been reversed.

It's easy to imagine Bonds starring for San Francisco until he hit free agency, then bolting for a lucrative contract elsewhere. Of course, we all know what actually happened: Bonds emerged as the megastar prize of the Pittsburgh Pirates' player development system, then forged a six-year, $43.75 million deal with the Giants before the 1993 season that just might have been the best free-agent signing in professional sports history.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Had the Giants signed Barry Bonds when they initially intended to, his career path might have been reversed.

It's easy to imagine Bonds starring for San Francisco until he hit free agency, then bolting for a lucrative contract elsewhere. Of course, we all know what actually happened: Bonds emerged as the megastar prize of the Pittsburgh Pirates' player development system, then forged a six-year, $43.75 million deal with the Giants before the 1993 season that just might have been the best free-agent signing in professional sports history.

Bonds proceeded to spend his final 15 Major League seasons with San Francisco, helping stimulate the franchise's popularity in the Bay Area and becoming baseball's all-time home run leader with 762.

2018 Draft order | 2018 Draft: June 4-6 | All-time Draft picks

But the lefty slugger could have launched his run of success with the Giants much earlier. San Francisco selected him in the second round of the 1982 Draft out of Serra High School, just a long home run or two away from Candlestick Park, where the team then played.

But Bonds had no reason to blindly follow his father, Bobby, who rose through San Francisco's farm system to eventually become an All-Star, or his godfather, Willie Mays, acknowledged as the greatest Giant of all. Bobby Bonds' playing career had ended just one year earlier with the Cubs, his seventh team since the Giants dealt him to the Yankees in 1974. In short, there weren't necessarily warm and fuzzy feelings between the Bondses and the Giants.

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Moreover, Mays had no reason to encourage Barry Bonds to sign with San Francisco. Mays was in baseball exile at the behest of Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who banned him from the game due to his involvement with an Atlantic City casino.

Other than Bonds himself, few are still around who recall anything about negotiations. Suffice it to say that there wasn't much negotiating. Stuck with a weak revenue stream that was exacerbated by the 1981 work stoppage, Giants general manager Tom Haller wouldn't budge from his offer of a $70,000 bonus. Bonds wanted $75,000. He had leverage in the form of a full scholarship offer to Arizona State University, one of the country's top college programs. Come fall, Bonds was a Sun Devil and not a Giant.

Bonds wasn't the only big bat in that Draft that the Giants missed out on due to their scrimping ways. They selected corner infielder Pete Incaviglia out of Monterey (Calif.) High School in the 10th round. But Incaviglia wanted a $15,000 bonus and San Francisco offered only $8,000. The Giants could have teamed Bonds and Incaviglia, who played outfield as a Major Leaguer, with right fielder Jack Clark, their resident slugger. Given Chili Davis' ascent to the Majors in 1982, San Francisco would have had a richly talented outfield and some dynamic bats in its lineup. Instead, the Giants struggled offensively until Will Clark arrived in 1986. Footnote: Clark was the Draft's second overall choice in 1985; Bonds went sixth that year to the Pirates.

While winning the first two of his seven Most Valuable Player Awards with Pittsburgh from 1986-92, Bonds didn't torment the Giants any more or less than he did against other clubs. In 70 games against them, he posted a .278/.396/.559 slash line with 15 homers and 43 RBIs.

Bonds' best was yet to come.

Video: Bonds to get his No. 25 jersey retired by Giants

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

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