Only Baseball Matters
…. Splash hit?

The Giants finally made some real noise this off-season, landing perhaps the biggest fish on the market, Barry Zito. The team will hold a press conference Friday to announce the deal, worth $126 million over 7 years, largest contract ever for a pitcher. OK, so what do I think now? Well, he’s a very good pitcher, but jeez, that’s a lot of years. On the other hand, $18 million today is a lot less than it would have seemed like last season. He’s three years younger than Soriano, the best hitter available, and the two of them landed virtually identical contracts.

Zito will gain some cosmetic upgrades to his performance right away, swapping a DH for a pitcher four times a game, as well as moving into what once was considered a pitchers park, (although PacBell may not be quite the extreme pitchers park it seemed to be, he will have a chance to make starts in some of the toughest hitters parks in the game, including Chavez Ravine and Petco). Will it work? I certainly didn’t think so two weeks ago:

…. We’re supposed to believe that Barry Zito will come here, to pitch with this kind of horseshit team behind him, with our waiver wire bullpen? Are these people out of their fucking minds?!?

…. Now the only way Zito comes here is if we give him Soriano money and years, which would be the exact wrong way to go. It’s one thing to overpay for a 40-40 guy who doesn’t get on base as much as you’d like. You sign a pitcher to seven year contract, you are toast. There has never been a seven year deal for a pitcher that’s worked out. NEVER. There’s been but a handful of 5 year deals that have, so, if that’s what the Giants have in mind to get Zito, then we’re lost. Even though he’s been expensive, A-Rod has never been a bust, never lost two seasons to injury, or completely lost his ability to play. Soriano may be expensive, but he’ll still be a pretty damn good player in 5 years. Mike Hampton gave the Rockies 22 wins for $122 million dollars. Who’s to say Zito doesn’t continue the decline that he seems to be on? Sure, he could get motivated and pull a Clemens, but how many times has that happened?

Did somebody say Nostradamus? ;-)

Actually, Zito’s not on a decline. It’s more that he goes up and down, and his up isn’t very up. He’s bounced between 8.6 and 5.7 strikeouts per 9 IP (6.9 for his career), which is good, but certainly not great. He’s posted a career 1.25 WHIP, which is pretty good, actually. Santan’s career WHIP is 1.10, and he’s a monster. Actually, a quick glance at the two pitchers shows that, compared to Santana, Zito’s not too shabby. They both came up in 2000. Santana has better numbers, some dramatically so, but if Zito can look OK compared to the best starting pitcher alive, then maybe the Giants didn’t do too bad. Still, ask yourself; if Zito hadn’t won the Cy Young, would he have even gotten $100 million? Rob Neyer doesn’t think so:

…. The only thing this deal does is make the Giants look ridiculous. Granted, Zito’s ERA will get a boost from the National League and the Giants’ home ballpark. And this one isn’t as dumb as the Mike Hampton deal with the Rockies. But based on the facts at hand, this looks to me like one of the dumber free-agent signings ever. Zito just isn’t very good. And if he’s worth $18 million per season, Santana’s worth $25 million.

Indeed, Zito landed the largest pitcher’s contract ever, even though he’s had as many as 200 strikeouts but once in his career, (and by the way, Rob, Santana is worth at least that much) Seems pretty risky to me, even with the adjustment made for these blowout contracts. Five years ago, Zito would have probably gotten something like Mussina money, 6 years, $87 million. Now Mussina seems like a bargain at $14 million per, as does Pettitte at $16. Is Zito, almost ten years younger than those guys, worth a couple a million more? I guess so, but 7 years is a long, long time.

UPDATE: Other Giants writers have put in their two cents. El Lefty Malo is about as ambivalent as I am, same concerns about the length of the deal, Zito’s good but not great numbers….

Nick Cannata, over at MVN, makes some interesting points:

…. Benefits of this signing:

~ Zito moves from the AL to the NL, meaning heíll be pitching to a league that hasnít seen him before
~ Facing pitchers now will up his K/BB rate
~ Heís still fairly young, eats innings, and hasnít visibly declined physically
~ Removes pressure from guys like Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Noah Lowry
~ The longterm addition of Zito makes the Giants rotation set in many years to come, with Cain, Lowry, Sanchez, and Lincecum already on board.

But again, seven years. Wow. Heíll have to still be effective through ages 33, 34, and 35 while taking up a huge chunk of payroll ($18 million/year). I agree with Grant over at McCovey Chronicles, that in the short run this is an awesome move. In the long run, itís not so attractive. The large contract goes on the fact that Zitoís been healthy his whole career, but so was Mike Hampton. And Ray Durham. And Armando Benitez. Zito stays off the DL and this is a move pays off bigtime. He blows out his arm and weíve got more dead weight on our hands taking up 15% of our payroll. Sign Miguel Cabrera in the ’08 offseason and Iíll be a believer in Sabean once again.

According to Baseball-Reference, the two pitchers most comparable to Zito through the age of 28 are none other than Mike Hampton and Tom Glavine.

What?!? Hampton? How horrifying is that? Glavine and Hampton? Hampton!?! Glavine has always been a bargain in terms of cost per win, while Hampton killed his career (and the Colorado Rockies) with that $114 million dollar horror of a contract, one of the worst in baseball history. Ouch.

Of course, Zito could hit the weight room with the other Barry, and go Hall of Fame for the next 7 years. ;-D

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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