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.