Barring an appeal, the sentencing of Barry Bonds on Friday in a San Francisco courtroom will bring the federal government's nearly decade-long investigation of a Northern California-based steroids ring to an anticlimactic end.

Federal guidelines suggest a prison sentence of 15 to 21 months and prosecutors want the home-run record holder to serve time - but federal probation officers have recommended probation and a period of house arrest. Probation officers, citing Bonds' charitable work, the nature of the crime, and his otherwise clean criminal record, recommended no prison time.

Legal analysts predicted U.S. District Judge Susan Illston will follow the Probation Office's recommendation because she has sentenced two other BALCO figures convicted of similar crimes to probation and house arrest.

The investigation in general - and the pursuit of Bonds in particular - ignited a debate over whether the government's long involvement was the best use of public resources.

More than seven years after he testified before a grand jury investigating BALCO, Bonds was convicted on just one of four remaining counts against him. And the jury deadlocked on whether Bonds lied about taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Was it all worth it?

"It absolutely was," said MacGregor Scott, the former U.S. attorney for Sacramento, now in private practice at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. "It brought a focus and awareness to the steroids issue that wasn't there before."

The probe did lead directly to former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell's in-depth investigation of drug use in Major League Baseball and his seminal Mitchell Report, which in turn prompted MLB and its players' union to strengthen their steroids policy.

Bosox gain Astros' closer

The Boston Red Sox on Wednesday acquired 26-year-old righthanded closer Mark Melancon from the Houston Astros for infielder Jed Lowrie and righthander Kyle Weiland. The deal brings Boston a potential replacement for Jonathan Papelbon, who signed as a free agent with the Phillies.

Melancon had 20 saves last season with an 8-4 record and 2.78 ERA in 71 relief outings. Lowrie, 27, played all four infield positions for Boston last year and hit .252 with six homers and 36 RBIs. Weiland, 25, was 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in seven games, including five starts, last year for Boston.

Brewers make it official

With Prince Fielder all but gone and Ryan Braun facing a 50-game suspension, the Milwaukee Brewers needed another source of offense. On Wednesday, the Brewers finalized a $36 million, three-year contract with free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez, adding that much-needed bat.

Ramirez, who played the last eight-plus seasons for the NL Central rival Chicago Cubs, said he considers the Brewers a team that will be in position contend - even if they do lose Braun for a chunk of next season and lose Fielder for good.

Arizona signs Saito

The Arizona Diamondbacks have reached agreement on a one-year, $1.75 million contract with 41-year-old righthander Takashi Saito.

The former all-star went 4-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 30 relief appearances for Milwaukee last season. Saito is 21-15 with 84 saves and a 2.18 ERA over parts of six seasons with the Dodgers, Boston, Atlanta, and Milwaukee. Opponents have hit .199 against him with 389 strikeouts and 103 walks in 322 games. His best season was as Dodgers closer in 2006, when he had 47 saves in 50 opportunities.