Monday, November 8, 2010

Does It Make Sense to Move Barry Zito?


San Francisco Giants Barry Zito pitches in the first inning against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park in San Francisco on October 2, 2010. Zito walked in two runs in the first and took the loss in the 4-2 game.  UPI/Terry Schmitt Photo via Newscom
Barry Zito is everybody' favorite whipping boy, which is easy to understand with his large contract and lackluster performance. With all the hate, most fans would be happy to see Zito shipped off to another team but does this really make sense?

The short answer is no this makes no sense at all short of some team giving the Giants an early Christmas present by taking on a large portion of his salary.

The longer explanation is 3 fold, Barry Zito is not an ace (even if he is paid as one) but he is not a scrub either, a replacement of the same talent would be relatively expensive, and finally there is no prospect in the system ready to come up that he is blocking.

Let's take a deeper look at each of the reasons:

Barry Zito Isn't THAT Bad:
For all the criticism that Zito gets a lot of it is due to his salary and not because of his role on the team. The last few seasons he has not been expected to be the ace of the staff or even the number 2 pitcher on the team.

Now he is seem as the 5th best starter on the staff and when you look at him compared to other number 5 starters there really isn't a better pitcher. If you look at all MLB pitchers with at least 100 innings Zito was number 72 in ERA, 89 in FIP and 82 in WAR.

If you imagine that talent is equal between teams Zito's stats would put him in around the 3rd starter area and for the Giants he is their 5th best guy. So when we talk down about Zito we must remember he really isn't that bad.

League average pitchers are not rare but they don't exactly fall out the sky either, when you get one you need to hold on.

A Replacement Would Be Expensive:
Free agent pitchers demand full market cost for their services and teams with excess pitching (Does this actually exist) that are willing to trade players demand top dollar in return. A replacement for Zito would be either expensive or not as good of a player. To get another 2 to 3 win player would cost in the neighborhood of $9 to $12 million.

In addition if the Giants were to trade Zito they would have to eat a large portion of his salary. There are no teams dumb enough to take on a large portion of Zito's remaining money with is over $18 million for the next 3 years. Zito's WAR value is between $8 and $9 million so you figure that the Giants would be on the hook for at a minimum $10 million a year.

So if you put those two together you get a very expensive situation. You pay a free agent full cost for their WAR and you have to pay another team to take Zito off your hands. You have to pay the new guy $9 to $12 million while still paying $10 million a year for Zito you are paying more than what you had for Zito.

No Cheap Replacement in the Minors:
The one alternative that could change the math would be if there is a guy in the minors who was close to the minors who could give the Giants quality starts at the league minimum. When you look at the AAA and AA pitchers there isn't a whole lot to hang your hat on.

Most of the pitchers in the Giants upper farm system project to be replacement level kind of players. Guys who could make some spot starts but not the guys you want pitching 150 innings of major league baseball. The Giants top pitchers are still down in the farm system and at least a couple years out from impacting the big league club.

Keeping Zito around isn't blocking a player who is chomping at the bit and the cheap guys to replace him are unappetizing.

As much as it may pain Giants fans it really doesn't make sense to trade Barry Zito.

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