Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
The Zito Deal Is Maybe Good, Unless It Isn't
2006-12-29 12:51
by Mark T.R. Donohue

When I first heard about the Barry Zito signing I was watching ESPN waiting for the Holiday Bowl to come on (roll on, you Bears, and so forth). It seemed pretty ridiculous to me at first, and I wasn't surprised to read the next morning that most of the guys who are paid to have opinions on this sort of thing felt the same. With further contemplation, I'm not sure that the Giants' contract with Zito is the worst thing in the world. Oddly, it's the deal's eye-opening number of guaranteed years that makes all the difference.

San Francisco is not going to be very good for the next few seasons. They don't have a farm system to speak of, and their offense is terrible past Barry Bonds, who will maybe play 3 1/2 games a week next year. Signing a guy like Zito to a three- or four-year deal wouldn't do them much good. But signing him now to a seven-year deal? Who knows? They'll at least be appearing to make an effort to remain competitive over the next couple of lean campaigns, and then in a few years' time (or sooner with some lucky trades) they might manage to get some hitters to add to a pretty nice little rotation. If present trends continue pitchers of Zito's caliber will soon be getting $20 million-plus per season on the open market.

I don't agree with the argument made by guys like Steve Phillips that the fact that Zito has somehow managed to pitch all of this time without getting significantly injured means he's all the more likely to do so now and indeed very soon. If anything, it seems that the ability to stay healthy is a skill, and one for which it's worth paying a premium. If, indeed, $17 million per or whatever it is is a premium any longer. That's kind of what was bugging me about the Jason Jennings trade, and I don't know how well I articulated it in past posts. You can scream to high heaven about how every free agent pitcher is getting hugely overpaid, but eventually, you have to face facts. If for Milwaukee and Kansas City just as well as Anaheim and the Cubs starters who don't completely suck get signed for $12 million a year at the very least, then that is the going rate. That's what they cost. People complain about the price of gas, but they still have to fill up their cars. If the Rockies are systematically incapable of paying the price for non-sucky starters, they won't have any, and that's kind of going to be a hurdle for their future hopes of contention. In the neighborhood of major league cities, Denver is rapidly becoming the weird clannish family on the corner who keeps their only car up on blocks in the backyard.

But hey, Allen Iverson!

2006-12-30 02:46:18
1.   joejoejoe
I like the Zito as well. He got paid the going rate. It's like the Mike Mussina deal a few years ago - if you get 30 starts a year that are better than average it solidifies your rotation. The same pundits crying about the Zito deal thought the Carl Pavano signing was good because he was a 'competitor' and somehow a local boy for the Yankees, even though he grew up in Connecticut. Hindsight is 20/20. If Zito gets hurt then it's a bad deal. The same can be said for every deal. Steve Phillips traded for Mo Vaughn. I'm sure he thought it was a good deal at the time.

As for basketball, Allen Iverson is a whirlwind. I've followed him closely since he played at Georgetown and you are going to enjoy having him in Denver. The guy tries as hard as any athlete I've ever seen and Carmelo Anthony is far and away the best player AI has every played with in the NBA. And 'Melo is a good fit - AI doesn't feed the post (see failed pairing with Chris Webber) but can hit slashers and shooters off the drive. Camby is a defensive stopper and garbage man, also a great fit.

You have a fun and dangerous team - enjoy it.

2006-12-30 04:04:31
2.   scareduck
Not that you can draw much of anything from a sample size of one, but Aaron Sele was pretty healthy prior to the Angels signing him. Health may be a skill, but it would be interesting to know how predictive past health really is.
2006-12-30 13:19:43
3.   Orly Yarly NoWai
Other people don't like the Zito deal because his peripherals have been declining for a couple years now, he gives up a lot of fly balls, which you know San Fran's outfield will butcher, his only real skill these days, it seems, is the ability to induce infield flies and he's just not worth the largest deal ever given to a pitcher. You know there's a vesting option for an 8th year? Would you like to pay Zito $18m at 36?
2006-12-31 23:17:19
4.   Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh
The health issue really is an interesting question. On the one hand, since Zito isn't a power pitcher like a Kevin Brown, I assume that should help keep him healthy. Maddux and Glavine are other non-power pitchers who've been able to stay healthy and successful for long periods of time. But might Zito's big 12-6 curve cause him future health problems? I recall that Odalis Perez had earlier in his career discarded (only to bring it back later) a similar curve in order to keep him healthy. And it's my understanding that power sliders like what Liriano throws are considered injury inducing. But are slow curveballs just different? It would be interesting for someone to do a non-anecdotal analysis of the issue.


2007-01-04 16:10:41
5.   FirstMohican
I'm not surprised that Phillips believes that if Barry's literally never missed a start, well then he must be more due than anyone in the history of baseball to come crashing down.

And is there any reason to say he's not worth the "largest contract ever given to a pitcher" we we all know that if every pitcher was a 2006 FA that Barry wouldn't be even top 10?

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