Sports Outside the Beltway

Zito Moves Across the Bay

According to numerous sources, Barry Zito has agreed to a deal with the San Francisco Giants. He’ll get $126 million over 7 years to pitch for the San Francisco Geriatrics, the 6th richest deal in MLB history.

Zito’s main selling point was his durability. He hasn’t had much success since winning the Cy Young in 2002. His control issues haven’t gone away, as he walked the second most hitters of any pitcher in baseball last season. His BB/9 rate has steadily climbed since 2002, and his SO/9 rate has dropped almost every year.

Nevertheless, I’m sorry to see Zito go. I knew it was inevitable that he’d hang up the white shoes, but now that he’s agreed to a deal, it’s sinking in.

There was something special about watching Zito’s famous curveball dive in a graceful arc, even if it ended up in the dirt in front of home plate. Zito seemed to personify the attitude of the A’s for so long, that once he’s gone, there will be a glaring hole. Folks like Nick Swisher and Dan Haren will step up, but it will be different to not see Zito sprawled on the outfield grass before his start, doing his yoga-like stretches.

For a player that claimed it wasn’t about the money; that he wanted to sign with a team that was in the hunt for World Series rings, this is a questionable move. The Giants are objectively further away from even making the playoffs than the A’s are, and can’t surround Zito with the kind of talent he needs to win games.

It’s always about the money. I’m OK with that, I just wish players would stop trying to pretend that it’s not.

Zito is a fly ball pitcher, and he’ll soon find out that even though he’s moving to the NL, he’ll give up a ton of extra base hits in the gaps at Phone Booth park. The average age of the Giants outfielders is 37; they’re not going to get to as many fly balls as Jay Payton, Mark Kotsay and Milton Bradley did.

I’m not going to wish anything but success for Zito, but I wouldn’t be surprised if after about two years of putting up ERAs of around 4.00 for a below .500 San Francisco team, he’s dangled on the trade market at the July deadline. It will be difficul to trade a contract as large as his, but I’m sure Brain Sabean will try.

I’m still a little baffled that Zito didn’t sign with the Mets, though. They were a perfect destination for him. They’re a contender, they have the money, and Rick Peterson, his old pitching coach, is there. That tells me that the market for Zito wasn’t as high as what he signed for. I’m guessing that the Rangers and Mets were offering deals in the range of 6-7 years at 13-16 million a year. When the Giants offered a deal that blew the others out of the water, Zito bit.

It all smacks of Scott Boras, really. When a player under his control signs a fat deal with a non-contender, I really shouldn’t be surprised.

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