These rumors have been floating around various diaries, with folks spouting off in each. But it's time to voltronate this discussion up into a thread that stretches through the weekend, because the rumors just won't die.
First, I love typing it. "Zito takes the mound for the Giants...Zito has pitched well over his last five starts...Zito just can't believe Molina let that one get by him...Zito's going to take a walk around the mound, and try and shake off that passed ball..." Barry Zito on the Giants! A true ace to replace Jason Schmidt! Hooray!
Well, in my mind, which is perpetually stuck in 2002, he's a true ace. In the real world, he's pretty much Noah Lowry with spottier control but a little better history of keeping runs off the board. Twenty million dollars or so...fleeeeccch.
But how about this: "Zito will pitch the first game of the series, followed by Cain, then Lowry. The Dodgers will throw out Scott Elbert to replace Jason Schmidt (strained groin), Aaron Sele to replace Randy Wolf (shoulder stiffness), and Brett Tomko to replace Brad Penny (ornery goo)."
That just sounds great when I say it, and it reads great when I type it. Zito on the Giants! A true ace!
But he's not an ace. He's a quality pitcher whose value is as much a function of his durability than anything else. Having him signed through 2011 would be a curious way to build for the future. If 20% of your payroll is going to go to one pitcher for the next five or six years, the pitcher had better be able to sneeze quality starts and shutouts. That plan works better with an increase in payroll (possible, considering the inflation of this offseason), or a quality farm system that would allow the team to compete with pre-arbitration hitters (also, cold fusion could solve the energy problems of the world, so we should look into that.)
But Zito and Cain! Cain and Zito! Cain, Zito, Lincecum, Lowry, Sanchez! Whoop whoop!
But where would the offense come from? If some crazy amount is going to Zito - say $18M a year - wouldn't that seriously hurt the chances of the Giants to sign centerpiece free agents like Adam Dunn or Andruw Jones?
But couldn't you disingenuously argue that a rotation of Zito, Cain, Lowry, Lincecum, and Sanchez will earn a combined $25M to $30M for the next few years? Even with Morris in the mix for the next two seasons, that leaves a lot of scratch for the rest of the roster. That philosophy is very reliant on young pitchers developing as expected, so there is a substantial risk. And there wouldn't be a guarantee that Sabean wouldn't continue to spend on the rotation, using the cheap players as chum. Still...Zito...on the Giants....
He's a floor wax!
He's a dessert topping!
I don't remember the last free agent I've been this conflicted about. The logic behind not signing him is sound; it really, really is. I remember watching Zito in the ALCS, and proactively laughing at the team that was going to sign him to a huge contract. He can melt down with the best of them; Randy Johnson in his prime, he's not.