LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The mystery guest of the winter meetings headed off to meet his mystery suitor Wednesday. And for winter-meetings melodrama, you can't beat a cameo appearance by Barry Bonds himself.
But even though Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, told ESPN's Steve Phillips that Barry had stopped by not-so-conveniently located Disney World to meet with at least two "other teams," there was widespread skepticism among baseball people we surveyed that he was bound anywhere other than San Francisco.
One baseball man who spoke with the Giants' brass said the Giants considered Bonds' arrival to be nothing more than particularly inspired "gamesmanship." The source said the Giants had seen no evidence that Bonds had any serious interest elsewhere -- and quoted a Giants official as saying, "There may be a phantom team out there somewhere -- but we can't find it."
Two other baseball men, however, said they were told by Bonds' agents that there would be an announcement of where Bonds would play next year by Wednesday night. And if that destination is going to be the Giants, the two sides have some massive negotiating to do. As of late Wednesday afternoon, they were facing a huge money gap.
Neither side is commenting on precisely how many dollars apart they are. But it's believed Bonds has shown no inclination to take a cut from his 2006 salary ($18 million), hasn't been especially open to tying his earnings to health or playing time, and wants a vesting option that could turn this deal into a two-year contract potentially worth in the neighborhood of $40 million.
The Giants, on the other hand, are believed to want to guarantee about half of what Bonds made this season, with incentives based on plate appearances that could bring him close to, or slightly below, this year's salary.
There also have been indications that the Giants have other, non-monetary issues they want to resolve with Bonds. But "right now," said one baseball man familiar with the discussions, "the divide is about compensation [i.e., money]. The reason this deal isn't done yet is not because of anything else. It's because of money."
Senior writer Jayson Stark covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com.