Every report in every newspaper links this man to the New York Mets. The big question for me as a Mets fan is: Is this a worthwhile move for my club?
There are a ton of factors here, so I've decided to take on the topic with two viewpoints; positive and negative.
-Barry Zito is still just 28 years old, so any kind of long-term deal would probably not be as risky as it could potentially be with other starters. Another key point on this fact is that he is EXTREMELY durable. He hasn't missed a start in his entire MLB career (14, 35, 35, 35, 34, 35, 34) and claims not to have missed any in college or high school either.
-Most important from a Mets-perspective: He won't cost anything other than money, and with a new cable network and a relatively shallow talent pool in the minors, not having to give up anything to sign Zito other than a draft pick is a solid play. And the Mets will already have at least 2 supplemental picks to play with after losing Chad Bradford and Roberto Hernandez anyway.
-With Rick Peterson as his pitching coach (not something that I really believe in, but a fun stat nonetheless), Zito has been much better than without him.
2.72 (half season), 3.49, 2.75 and 3.30, then Peterson left; 4.48, 3.86, 3.83
Although I have to say, this quote is a bit creepy:
When Barry went off to the Cape Cod League, he arranged a meeting with Peterson in the parking lot at Edison High School in Edison, N.J. They worked out together in the rain, using a line in the parking lot as a pitching rubber.
When they were finished, they crossed the street to a library and spent hours analyzing Barry’s motion. According to Joe, Peterson told him: “It was magical.”
-Who else could the Mets get to solve their rotation in the near future? Dontrelle Willis is going to cost a lot in players, and hasn't been appreciably better than Zito was at the same age. Nobody else this year is any better than Zito, although some have argued Ted Lilly has the same basic fit.
As far as next year, the list of starters isn't looking any deeper.
2007 FA Starting Pitchers
Kris Benson * BAL
Mark Buerhle CWS
Paul Byrd * CLE
Chris Carpenter * STL
Shawn Chacon PIT
Matt Clement BOS
Bartolo Colon LAA
Scott Elarton KC
Josh Fogg COL
Casey Fossum * TB
Freddy Garcia CWS
Geremi Gonzalez TOR
Livan Hernandez ARZ
Jason Jennings COL
Randy Johnson NYY
Brian Lawrence WAS
Jon Lieber PHI
Kyle Lohse CIN
Wade Miller CHC
Eric Milton CIN
Odalis Perez * KC
Joel Pineiro SEA
Kenny Rogers DET
Curt Schilling BOS
Carlos Silva MIN
John Smoltz * ATL
Brett Tomko * LAD
Kip Wells STL
Jake Westbrook CLE
Randy Wolf * LAD
Jaret Wright BAL
Carlos Zambrano CHC
Victor Zambrano NYM
Carlos Zambrano and Chris Carpenter jump out at you, but Carpenters option will almost surely be picked up, and Zambrano is already negotiating with the Cubs. Colon hasn't been healthy since his Cy Young year and even if he did bounce back theres no real reason the Angels wouldn't re-sign him. Smoltz and Schilling and Rogers and Johnson will all be ancient, and Buehrle and Zito are practically the same pitcher. The only pitcher who I'd rather have than Zito is Jennings, who I already stated my case for in my offseason plan, and I don't know if it's worth waiting him out. Fact of the matter is that players of Zito's talent/skill/age combination are not readily available for only money, usually.
I didn't even include Kevin Appier!
-Zito's recent performance isn't great at all, in fact, his walk rate escalated to a record high last year. He's not the same pitcher that won those Cy Young awards, and theres not a great chance he'll suddenly remember how to do it either.
-Theres a real debate as to whether the Mets really need Zito, seeing as how they aren't really in any danger of missing the playoffs even if people regress. The Braves big offseason acquisition so far is Tanyon Sturtze, the Phillies are trying to trade Pat Burrell for some reason instead of actually getting better, and other than Adam Eaton they have brought in Wes Helms of 2000 acclaim and their starting catcher right now is Chris Coste.
It's not only a NL East epidemic either, of the NL clubs, I can only see the Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Brewers having the kind of young talent necessary to make a huge turnaround next year. The Dodgers would fit on the list too if Ned Colletti weren't so busy making sure they had nowhere to play all their talented youngsters.
So worst case scenario, those three gel together and become 90 win teams, the Mets get a rough patch of regression and get down to 90 wins too. Who else is going to be a wild card challenger? The Padres? The Dodgers? The Cardinals? I don't see that much reason for concern.
While a Glavine-Duque-Maine-Perez-whoever rotation is hardly optimal, it's not a detriment to the club and with the Mets lineup, all they have to do is get 800 average innings anyway.
I'm biased heavily towards Zito because he seems like such a neat guy, and also because he was really awesome in All-Star Baseball 2004, leading the Portland Green Sox to many a title.
I know that it's a risk, and I know it's not neccessary, but I think given all the other options, Zito is a good fit for the club and wouldn't cost anything but money. He's definitely not a franchise player, but he's a good #2 or #3, and that kind of consistency is something that should pretty much lock up a playoff spot for the 07 Mets.
I'd sign him for Kevin Brown money.