• Chasing Barry Zito

    Posted by on December 27th, 2006 · Comments (16)

    Since there seems to be much out there these days on whether or not the Yankees should chase after Barry Zito, I thought I would share some thoughts on this free agent pitcher.

    First, I’ve heard reports of how Zito’s record is “something great” when the A’s score some-number-of-runs or more over a certain time period, etc. Forget that. It tells us nothing about how Zito pitches – in terms of his relative pitching performance results.

    It’s better off to look at Zito’s career to date and realize that you need to give it a haircut of sorts to find the true level of what you can expect from him. There are two fluke seasons in there that you have to remove – 2002 and 2004. Zito will probably never again be as good as he was in 2002. And, considering his consistency in other seasons, it’s safe to say that 2004 was just an off season for him.

    What does that leave? It says that Barry Zito is a guy who will give you 34 starts a season, throw around 220 IP, and end up with 15-ish RSAA by year-end. And, he’s probably good for this pace over the next three years. Where Zito goes after that is anyone’s guess – he could be the next Whitey Ford or the next Denny Neagle, in my opinion.

    If I’m the Yankees, I would offer Zito a three-year deal for $48 million with a club-option for a fourth year. The option year can even be triggered with meeting certain performance levels, if needed. But, I do not guarantee a fourth-year with the offer now. And, there’s no way that I offer him a five-year deal (or greater) at this point.

    Barry Zito can help the Yankees in 2007. And, he can probably help the Yankees in 2008 and 2009 as well. But, if someone else wants to offer him a deal for four years guaranteed at $64 million, or five years at $75 million, then New York should just tip their cap and wish Zito good luck with his new team.

    I do like to think that Zito could be a David Wells type pitcher for the Yankees in New York. For what it’s worth, he’s even been pretty good in the post-season, to date, with an ERA 3.25 of seven games started.

    It’s just that the Yankees should be very careful to realize that he’s not an ace who is going to give you 20+ RSAA in a season and he’s someone who could fade from his current levels of performance just as easy as he could maintain them – because he’s not that type of 20+ RSAA per season ace who typically remains good in his later years.

    Therefore, there’s no reason to break the bank in the chase for Barry Zito. But, if you luck into a Johnny Damon type situation – where the years and the money make sense to your situation, then it’s something the Yankees should pull the trigger on – and New York should be monitoring his situation now with respect to contract offers coming his way.

    Comments on Chasing Barry Zito

    1. brockdc
      December 28th, 2006 | 12:42 am

      Zito’s a fantastic innings eater, but that singular quality does not equate to 4-5 years at 16-17 mil a pop. And I know the market’s insane. But no way.

      And let me throw this out there: Can Zito continue the same degree of success into his thirties with only one exceptional pitch – his devastating curve? I would say the answer is no, since the pitch he uses to complement it will, most likely, continue to lose whatever bite it has left. That is unless he reinvents himself and becomes a junkball/off-speed specialist, a la Jamie Moyer.

    2. RICH
      December 28th, 2006 | 9:07 am

      I’d like the Yankees to acquire Zito (or any player) but only at the value they think is worthy.

      If that’s not enough for Zito let Boras use that offer to make other teams pay more

    3. baileywalk
      December 28th, 2006 | 11:23 am

      The idea that the Yankees want Zito is all a creation by Scott Boras. He used Jon Heyman — you’ll notice he was the first to make the suggestion — to put this seed out there (that trading Randy Johnson = getting Zito with the money saved).

      Zito would be crazy not to go to the NL. They haven’t seen much of him there, and we all know how facing those weak lineups help AL pitchers.

      It’s kind of amazing to me that he has the perfect offer on the table and he won’t take it. The Mets are apparently offering him 5/75. It’s the perfect park for him, it’s New York, and it’s a winning team.

      The “Daily News” is now saying the Giants are going to step up and go to 100 million.

      Zito has to decide what’s more important — more money or winning.

      And with this Johnson deal: I know Cashman wants to cut payroll, but if Arizona is interested, then “buy” some prospects from them. If they’ll give up Chad Tracy (or whoever) and a top pitching prospect if the Yankees pay a lot of Unit’s salary, then do it! Yeah, you take a hit financially today, but think of what you save by having those league-minimum players in the years to come.

      If the Arizona D’Backs were willing to give up a major-league-ready position player, starting pitcher and reliever, then the Yankees should be willing to pay Johnson’s ENTIRE salary (the 14 of the 16 million he’ll actually be paid). They would gladly pay that amount if the guys were free agents.

    4. Raf
      December 28th, 2006 | 11:27 am

      And let me throw this out there: Can Zito continue the same degree of success into his thirties with only one exceptional pitch – his devastating curve?
      ===========
      Maybe maybe not. Like you alluded to, it depends on how well he makes adjustments.

      There are some interesting names courtesy of baseball-reference’s similarity scores.

      Similar Pitchers
      1. Teddy Higuera (957)
      2. Jim O’Toole (942)
      3. Steve Blass (938)
      4. Mark Buehrle (931)
      5. Bill Walker (930)
      6. Mark Mulder (928)
      7. Pete Vuckovich (928)
      8. Chris Carpenter (927)
      9. Tim Hudson (925)
      10. Freddy Garcia (925)

      Similar Pitchers through Age 28
      1. Mike Hampton (963)
      2. Ramon Martinez (960)
      3. Ray Culp (956)
      4. Johnny Podres (956)
      5. Mickey Lolich (954)
      6. Tom Glavine (950)
      7. Juan Pizarro (949)
      8. Ron Darling (949)
      9. Kevin Appier (944)
      10. Jack McDowell (939)

      Most Similar by Age
      23. Wiley Piatt (981)
      24. Dave Ferriss (959)
      25. Juan Marichal (966)
      26. Mike Hampton (971)
      27. Mike Hampton (976)
      28. Mike Hampton (963)

    5. Raf
      December 28th, 2006 | 12:57 pm

      Well, if MLB.com is to be believed, he’s the Jints problem now.

    6. Raf
      December 28th, 2006 | 12:58 pm

      “One source said that the Rangers expect Zito to sign with the San Francisco Giants. The Rangers offered Zito a six-year, $84 million contract. They also added a vesting option for $15 million for a seventh year with a $4 million buyout. The option would have kicked in if Zito pitched 200 innings in the sixth year of the contract. But apparently it wasn’t enough to lure Zito to Texas.”

      “Sources told ESPN’s Peter Gammons that Zito will receive a seven-year contract from the Giants, with the deal averaging approximately $18 million per season.”

    7. December 28th, 2006 | 1:21 pm

      At that price and contract-life, you just tip your cap and let him go.

    8. baileywalk
      December 28th, 2006 | 1:50 pm

      Say what you want about Boras, but he gets his clients not only money but YEARS, which is just as important.

      This makes the Giants a better team in the short term. I think Zito (if the Giants score him SOME runs) will win 17-20 games for them next year. They will have a good one-two punch with Zito and Cain in a weak division and a weak league. (After three years, this contract will be a disaster.)

      The problem is that the Giants bought into Bonds for one more year, so he could break the home-run record in that uniform, and that all but writes off 2007. It will be all Bonds, all the time, and I think he hurts the team more than he helps. You would like to see the Giants, in 2008, once Bonds is gone, start on a new road and get younger, but they still have a lot of older players under contract. This is a very weird team. I’m not really sure how they view themselves moving on or what this move says about their future plans.

      Another thing to think about is that lefties hit Zito well. So in ’08, when lefty hitters have gotten to know him, he will probably be giving up a lot of homers in his home ballpark.

    9. Raf
      December 28th, 2006 | 2:11 pm

      At that price and contract-life, you just tip your cap and let him go.
      =========
      Yep. Were the A’s even in the running? Kinda makes me wonder what Beane has up his sleeve.

      Anyway, more power to Zito/Boras, best of luck to Zito in SF. Don’t think this makes them the favorites to win the West, but it helps. It’s going to be interesting to see how the moves the Jints, Padres & Dodgers made pan out.

    10. JeremyM
      December 28th, 2006 | 3:36 pm

      Can anyone say Mike Hampton in Colorado? OK, it won’t be that bad, but there is not anyway Zito is worth that–maybe a couple years at that salary in the current market, but seven years? Good God. This market is completely insane. I was kind of thinking that the market had come down for Zito— wrong!

      I’ll be honest though, as much as I dislike him, I think the Yanks should probably hang on to Johnson. I’m all for building for the future, but clearing one year of a bad salary might hurt the present more than it can possibly help the future. Johnson might have enough left to help this year. I suppose if they can get Clemens for half a year it might be worth doing, but I’d hate to stake anything on him. I’m a fan, but he marches to the beat of his own drummer.

    11. baileywalk
      December 28th, 2006 | 3:43 pm

      Getting rid of Johnson would be a gift from God. Yanks apparently don’t want to eat any salary, but they should if the other team sends back good players.

      Johnson isn’t happy here, he’s a sour SOB, and his numbers have declined each year. There’s no reason to think they won’t decline some more in the AL. In the NL, I think he’s still a very good pitcher.

      Everyone keeps talking about Clemens mid-year, but the guy I’m looking forward to is Hughes. I think the Yankees have enough pitching depth at the upper levels — everyone forgets about Clippard, who has the innings in his arm to start out of spring training — to not need Clemens.

    12. December 28th, 2006 | 3:51 pm

      ~~~Another thing to think about is that lefties hit Zito well. So in ’08, when lefty hitters have gotten to know him, he will probably be giving up a lot of homers in his home ballpark.~~~

      FWIW, IIRC, the park in SF is really bad for LH power hitters. It’s just Bonds that makes it look small on TV.

    13. baileywalk
      December 28th, 2006 | 4:30 pm

      AT&T Park is only 309 down the right-field line. It’s easy for lefty pull hitters like Bonds to hit home runs there. I imagine many lefties will be jerking Zito’s floating curveball into the Cove.

    14. Raf
      December 28th, 2006 | 10:34 pm

      FWIW, IIRC, the park in SF is really bad for LH power hitters. It’s just Bonds that makes it look small on TV.
      ===============
      Any stats? Searches haven’t come up with much.

      Did find this cool little tidbit, tho’
      “Before the 2006 season, a replica of the “Eddie Grant” memorial was placed near an elevator on the left field side of the ballpark, which is visible from outside the park. The original granite monument, which honored the only MLB player killed in WWI, was five feet high and stood in center field of the Polo Grounds at the base of the clubhouse wall.”

    15. December 29th, 2006 | 12:28 am

      The park in SF is short down the RF line, but it angles out, sharp, as you head towards CF, no?

    16. Raf
      December 29th, 2006 | 8:46 am

      The park in SF is short down the RF line, but it angles out, sharp, as you head towards CF, no?
      ===========

      http://www.andrewclem.com/Baseball/ATTPark.html

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