Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Zito's free agent year
By Jason A. Churchill
In December, 2006, the San Francisco Giants signed left-hander Barry Zito to a 7-year, $126 million contract, the largest of all-time for a pitcher at the time. Nearly seven years later Zito could hit the open market again after the 2013 season, barring an unforeseen piling up of innings over the final three-plus months that would automatically trigger an option for 2014.
For the option to vest, Zito would need to log 126 2/3 innings between now and the end of the regular season schedule, an improbable end result, so it's likely the 35-year-old is pitching for a contract.
Despite a pedestrian 4-5 record and 4.79 ERA, Zito is having a decent season -- the second-best Fielding Independent Pitching (3.78) of his career. There are signs of further decline, however, such as the 5.28 strikeouts per nine innings, a career low, and a fastball sitting in the 82-84 mph range consistently.
Zito has been a bit unlucky with a BABIP of .345, but is also boasting an unsustainable home runs per fly ball ratio, and a career-worst 28.5 percent line drive rate.
In the end, it seems far fetched that the southpaw would warrant a multi-year deal in the offseason, especially considering similar, yet younger lefties available, such as Jason Vargas, Paul Maholm, Joe Saunders (option for 2014) and Chris Capuano (option for 2014), and the growing depth in young pitching in Major League Baseball.
Perhaps the deal Saunders received from Seattle -- one year, $6.5 million with an option for a second year at the same pay rate -- will serve as the ceiling for Zito. More likely, he'll receive a few one-year offers, and a slew of minor league overtures.