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Barry Bonds will be the best value free agent signing of this winter.Barry Bonds

This is a player with a lot to offer, particularly as a DH. He put up a higher EqA this year (.361 adjusted for all-time) as a 42-year-old with bad knees than Alex Rodriguez ever has. He led the majors in walks and on-base percentage, hit a home run every twelve at-bats, and put up the highest slugging percentage by anyone his age in the history of baseball.

And while the media still loves to talk about him, the mainstream press as a whole doesn’t seem to appreciate how much he has left. While most of the focus is on the so-called risks of bringing him in, signing Bonds could actually be the most risk-averse move a team could make this offseason.

Consider this: in 477 plate appearances, Bonds was worth 6.6 wins above replacement. His defense was slightly below replacement level, so this is a decent approximation of what his value would be as a DH. We can also use that number as a quasi-projection for 2008, assuming an increase in playing time due to a lighter workload, but a drop in performance due to age.

Now consider the total dollars he will command. Figure his absolute max, if several bidders get involved, is two years at his 2007 salary, $16 million. So let’s say $30 million+ in present value. More realistically, he’ll get one a one year deal, perhaps with a mutual option. The likely present value of that deal is closer to $20 million.

Compare that to the other top free agents, outside of A-Rod. Signing Torii Hunter will require at least $60 million. Aaron Rowand will surely get close to $50 million. Mike Lowell may take a hometown discount, but will almost certainly cash in at over $40 million. Andruw Jones is a bit of a wildcard, but needless to say his annual salary should end up being larger than Bonds’s. And keep in mind that these are all pretty low-end estimates.

These players all have significant defensive value, and are better risks as far as health and playing time. But that is in the short term. Long term, each carries a significant amount of risk that teams will have to take on in order to sign them. Odd as it sounds, Bonds represents a much more guaranteed return on investment than any of these other players, and therefore is the more conservative play.

Last week I wrote, “While we can still make free agent predictions, I’m going to put Barry Bonds in one of two places: Anaheim if there are a number of bidders, or Oakland if the price plummets.” From a baseball standpoint, the Angels are certainly the best fit. Bonds gets to stay in California, and Anaheim fills an enormous hole in their lineup.

If the A’s are really going to rebuild, I doubt Bonds will end up there under any circumstances. But I still think it could make sense if other teams aren’t interested, at least from a business perspective.

Wherever he goes, he will almost certainly bring a great deal of value. Despite the sideshow that the media has largely created, Bonds can still rake, and any prudent American League team with a hole at DH should be thrilled to have him.

Feedback? Write a comment, or e-mail the author at shawn(AT)squawkingbaseball.com

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