2012 seems like it's going to be a fork-in-the-road season for Zito's future with this team. After a somewhat encouraging 2009 season, he's had two sub-par seasons, even by his standards. With 2 years and $39 million left on his contract, at what point should he get the Rowand treatment if his downward spiral continues?
There seems to be a few options. My favorite would be making him sell peanuts, hoping his pride would make him retire early, but I'm going to take a guess that management won't go for that, so on to real options...
1) Send him to the bullpen. I believe it's pretty widely accepted that his warmup routine precludes him from being an effective reliever.
2) Trade him. Probably not happening, unless there's another Alfonso-for-Finley, bad-contract swap with a team that needs pitching badly enough...Boston? (Crawford), Yankees? (A-Rod). Not that I'd really be on board for that, since it would strap the team's payroll for a longer period of time, but it's an interesting thought to take a chance on hitters that used to be pretty good.
That leaves two realistic options, in my mind...
3) Cut him. If he continues to struggle, most of the fan base would probably be happy with this, whether it's the right decision or not. We're all tired of seeing him nonchalantly struggle, and as with the other Barry, part of many people would just feel good about moving on from that era of the team. The question is, can he contribute in any way to this team, or is it worth paying $39 million to clear up a roster spot? It would be a hard thing to pay both Rowand and Zito to not play when we don't really know how much longer the young pitching core will stay in tact.
4) Keep him in the rotation. Lord Bork has told us this is what's happening, so we pretty much have to assume this is at least how the season will start. Trading Sanchez compounded the likelihood that the team will feel like they can't cut ties with him. Surkamp doesn't seem ready to take over in the majors yet, so there's really no alternative in-house. It seems to me like this is the most likely scenario, and we'll just have to count on losing every 5th game or so.
What would you think the best move would be if, say, he starts 0-6 again, with ever decreasing velocity and K-rate and a ballooning BB-rate, showing no improvement and a lack of motivation?