Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 28, 2006
BASEBALL: Giants Bag Zito

First reaction to the news: this stinks for the Mets, who really could have used Zito and his durability. Second thought: 7 years and $126 million is crazy money for a guy who is a durable quality pitcher, yes, but not a championship-quality staff ace.

One thing that happens in Rotisserie baseball is that you sometimes realize that the economics are shifting - people are throwing stupid money at closers and speed is cheap, something like that. So you change your strategy. Starting pitching still matters, but it matters less than it used to, and yet has become obscenely expensive. I can't criticize the Mets for mostly staying out of the feeding frenzy. Glavine and Maine give the Mets two solid starters, and El Duque will hopefull be OK when available. Dave Williams and Jason Vargas may give the Mets some non-Lima-quality insurance. Which, with Trachsel, Bannister and Zambrano gone, leaves two rotation slots, one to be filled by Oliver Perez in the hopes of progress, the other open for competition between Pelfrey, Humber, and Soler, and Pedro to return at mid-season.

Not a great rotation. But with a deep bullpen and a solid lineup and defense, maybe the Mets are ahead of the game in shifting their strategy and saving their resources.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:54 PM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Interested in Jon Leiber? :)

The price will be high to trade him in the division.

Posted by: Bob at December 28, 2006 2:28 PM

The Giants will rue signing Zito instead of Schmidt. Yes, Zito is more durable, but as you mentioned, Zito is not a top of the rotation playoff team pitcher. I am not downgrading him, but on a real good team he is a #2 at best.

Doesn't that Meche contract look more sane every day?

Posted by: maddirishman at December 28, 2006 3:54 PM

In a word: no. The Mets paid less for Pedro than the Royals paid for Meche, and Meche's injury history is if anything worse than Pedro's. Plus, he's no Pedro.

Posted by: The Crank at December 28, 2006 4:00 PM

It does make the Matsuzaka deal seem reasonable even when the $51.1 million is included.

Posted by: Hei Lun Chan at December 28, 2006 4:10 PM

I noticed you don't suggest Heilman in the rotation, Crank. Changed your mind on that one?

I still think they need to give him a legitimate shot at winning a place in the rotation.

Posted by: Mike at December 28, 2006 4:47 PM

I have given up believing that the team is interested in moving Heilman to the rotation. I see Cerrone says they might consider dealing him as part of a package for Haren, Westbrook or Garland - Haren is the only one of those I'd be sure would be a better rotation starter than Heilman.

Posted by: The Crank at December 28, 2006 4:56 PM

This signing is reminding me more and more of the Bobby Bonilla signing. Bonilla was the then best player on the FA market (or at least he was perceived to be) and then received a contract that paid him far more than he was worth. Nobody bothered to note that he was the best of a mediocre lot.

The same thing applies here. Zito was the best of a sub-par group, and is getting paid about twice what he deserves. I would have been okay with the club overpaying for Zito, but not by the ridiculous amount the Giants have overpaid for him. In the end, this signing will go down as well for the Giants as the Bonilla signing did for the Mets.

Which of course doesn't help the Mets out a whole lot. It seems the fate of the rotation and of the club in general will come down to a) will Pedro come back in the mid-season and pitch effectively, and b) failing that, can the Mets make a mid-season move to bolster the rotation?

Posted by: paul zummo at December 28, 2006 4:57 PM

I agree, Mike. There have been indications, via trade talks, that other teams want him in their rotation if dealt. Why not see if they are right? Should have tendered Zambrano as well. In this market three decent Port St Lucie outings would have drawn calls.

Posted by: abe at December 28, 2006 5:00 PM

Westbrook or Garland

Ugh. What a waste that would be.

Posted by: Mike at December 28, 2006 5:13 PM

It will be a major upset if the Giants don't loose their shirts on this deal. Zito would certainly have improved the Mets, but at that price they are better off without him. My hope is that Omar will gamble on the young pitchers now, instead of overpaying (either financially or in trade value) to get a mid-level veteran who doesn't really improve them much.

Posted by: Jerry at December 28, 2006 5:49 PM

My honest first thought was, "I wouldn't give Walter Johnson seven years." Zito will rue the day, as most due who go anywhere simply for a paycheck. Studies show that in all professions. The Mets could use him; he's a durable 28 year old lefty, ANYONE could use him. But the price was too high.

I don't like the idea of Heilman as a starter. His stuff gets old fast the third time around. See him once, maybe twice, and he can get you.

I think Peterson sees in Perez what he saw in Zambrano. Lethal movement if he can harness it. Since Perex has already had a good year, no reason he can't, at his young age, expect more. Plus, like Maine, I think he proved he is fearless. That is a good qualtiy in a pitcher.

The Met pitching staff will never be compared to the old Orioles or Indians, but I think at this point Omar wants some good servicable pitchers who can last. Everone forgets that the core of the team is Wright and Reyes (both presumably getting better every year for the next 3-5 years, then staying a while at the top), and Beltran, who will be good for .285-35-110 plus great defense for another 5 years. That is some core. Astounding core actually.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 28, 2006 9:08 PM

"No f***ing Zito?"

(channeling The Sopranos)

Posted by: Attila (Pillage Idiot) at December 28, 2006 9:38 PM

Will this spark more trading this summer as players with 'reasonable' contracts with 2-3 years left suddenly look much much cheaper? In combination with that, it should make some players who were previously salary albatrosses easier to move.

Posted by: son of brock landers at December 28, 2006 10:31 PM

"I don't like the idea of Heilman as a starter. His stuff gets old fast the third time around. See him once, maybe twice, and he can get you. "
Daryl, you may be right, that is the management's theory. But in this market I want to see it on the field. He has earned his shot, out pitched Bannister in Florida last spring. If Omar can't pull off a nice trade it makes zero sense not to try him.

Posted by: abe at December 29, 2006 9:49 AM

Crank, curious if you, as a baseball loving lawyer, had an opinion on this discussion over at Pinto's site: http://www.baseballmusings.com/archives/018787.php . Happy New Year

Posted by: abe at December 29, 2006 10:28 AM

Abe, isn't this the Ninth Circuit, that has an opinion on the constitution to the left of Lenin (and yes, I am a left leaning moderate). To be fair, if the right wing got this, the ACLU wojld be all over them for taking law and order too far.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 29, 2006 10:53 AM

Daryl, it is the 9th indeed. Happy New Year.

Posted by: abe at December 29, 2006 12:17 PM

Clearly it is too much money. I would guess though that moving to the NL will extend his career and make him appear to be more of a front line guy. He will face significantly worse line-ups and a pitcher every so often. I would guess over the next 7 years he wins 20 (or 18, 19ish) a couple of times and throws in another Cy Young. If I were a decent pitcher I sure as hell would want to spend the back end of my career in the NL.

Posted by: jim at December 29, 2006 2:51 PM

Facing opposing pitchers is an advantage, Jim, but you are premature in assuming that just because the balance of power presently favors the AL it will continue to do so. These things are always cyclical.

Posted by: The Crank at December 29, 2006 3:02 PM

The comments posted in response to this shortsighted, foolish column are amusing. Davidoff seems to think the Mets screwed up in not topping the giants offer. Logic? It is only money. Newsday baseball coverage has been in the tank since Heyman headed to SI.

http://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/mets/ny-spken1229,0,4227767.column

Posted by: abe at December 29, 2006 3:50 PM

Crank,

When was the last time NL ERA was higher than AL ERA? It has always been harder to pitch in the AL (at least since 1973) since one of the hitters is a real hitter and not a pitcher. This has not been cyclical for a long time and there is really no reason to suspect that it will change in the next 7 years. Zito will have it easier in the NL than the AL and that is simply a fact. He's a good enough pitcher (much like Pedro though not on the level Pedro once operated on) that a switch of leagues will likely do him nothing but good.

Posted by: jim at December 29, 2006 6:46 PM

If you look at his peripherals in '06-high HR and BB rates, mediocre K rate-Zito's adjusted ERA of 116 looks generous. He may only be a slightly better than mediocre starter at this point, as his '05 number weren't much better. Zito might, however, be the kind of guy who can consistently compile better ERA's than his peripherals would suggest.

Still, with the Mets' piss-poor rotation, acquiring even an average starter would be to their advantage. I know Omar Minaya doesn't want to over-pay here, and there's a case to be made for that line of thinking, but come July he'll end up over-paying for rotation help anyway.

Then the question becomes, do you think your team will be in the race at that point (almost certainly yes), and will you get gouged even worse in July '07 than in December '06? Tough call, but on balance Minaya's probably right.

It's a crap shoot, though.

Posted by: John Salmon at December 29, 2006 8:15 PM
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