The Yankees Should Trade for Barry Zito

Few contracts in recent baseball history have attracted more ridicule than the seven-year, $126 million deal the Giants gifted to Barry Zito. Apparently still dazzled by Zito’s 23-5 record, 2.75 ERA and Cy Young award four seasons earlier, Brian Sabean ignored Zito’s more pedestrian peripheral stats, threw a mint at him, and instantly became the proud owner of one of the worst contracts in professional sports.

Which is exactly why the Yankees should trade for him.

If there’s one resource the Yanks have readily available, it’s money. Even if we assume a payroll around last year’s figure of $213 million (never mind that they’d turn a healthy profit with a $300 million payroll), there are dollars left to be spent. Andy Pettitte‘s retirement blows a hole in the Yankees’ rotation — but it also makes room for an eight-figure salary, with New York’s projected 2011 outlay now hovering around $200 million.

Further, Brian Cashman has been (wisely) reluctant to part with elite prospects to acquire stopgap veterans. If Felix Hernandez magically became available via trade tomorrow, sure, Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos and company…come on down. But a pitcher of Felix’s caliber isn’t likely to become available, not today, and probably not at the trade deadline either.

That leaves the free agency market, which is alarmingly thin at this point. The Yankees have already scraped the bottom of the barrel, taking flyers on Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Kevin Millwood‘s name has been floated, though Buster Olney Tweeted that Millwood is asking for $4 million to $5 million on a one-year deal. Even if Millwood lowers his price, banking on three quality starters from a group that includes Colon, Garcia, Millwood, Sergio Mitre, Ivan Nova, and yes, A.J. Burnett is asking a lot.

Which brings us to Zito. There is no iron-clad guarantee that he’ll pitch well in 2011, even with the Giants in AT&T Park, let alone in the AL East, braving Yankee Stadium’s launching pad. But there’s some potential for success.

Start with Zito’s durability. He’s never spent a day on the disabled list in his entire 11-year major league career, starting 32 or more games every season since becoming a full-time starter in 2001. Though he’s getting pulled earlier in games now than he did earlier in his career, Zito has still averaged 192 IP per season in his four years with the Giants. A cynic might argue that all those innings don’t do much good if the pitcher throwing them isn’t all that great. This ignores just how bad a replacement-level starter is. In the Yankees’ case, there’s no Madison Bumgarner or Jeremy Hellickson poised to step into the rotation if one of the top five go down. Barring a trade or an unlikely prospect blossoming, you’d likely be looking at a true replacement-level type as an injury replacement.

The second argument in Zito’s favor is his rebound, however modest, in the past two seasons. In a conversation last spring, Zito noted that, before the 2009 season, he’d gone back to the long-toss regimen he’d used in college and earlier in his career, which he believed helped improve his arm strength and velocity. While it’s tough to verify the former, the latter bears itself out: Zito threw his fastball, slider and curve harder in the past two years than he had since he was with Oakland.

His pitch selection has also changed, suggesting a possible cause for his modest improvement in the past two years — beyond mere random chance or statistical noise. Though we should be careful about putting too much faith in pitch classification, the jump in Zito’s reported slider usage is significant: 9.8% of Zito’s pitches in his ugly 2008 season (4.72 FIP/5.34 xFIP) were sliders, vs. 18.6% in 2009 (4.31 FIP/4.46 xFIP) and 14.5% in 2010 (4.25 FIP/4.77 xFIP).

All things being equal, you’d also prefer a left-handed pitcher in homer-happy Yankee Stadium than a right-handed pitcher — especially if your man is a flyball specialist like Zito. StatCorner.com notes that the home run park effect for lefty hitters in Yankee Stadium was 124 last season, vs. a still high but more moderate 110 for right-handed hitters. Zito’s career splits aren’t huge (0.88 HR/9 IP, 4.23 FIP, 4.52 xFIP vs. lefties; 1.00 HR/9 IP, 4.45 FIP, 4.78 xFIP vs. righties). But they’re enough, when combined with hitters’ own typical splits, to prompt a manager to deploy more righty hitters with Zito on the hill. You would expect Zito to give up more homers in Yankee Stadium than he did in Oakland or San Francisco; but the damage could be more contained than it might for an aging right-hander like Garcia, Colon, or Millwood.

There’s also the matter of the Yankees’ likely outfield configuration. As Matt Klaassen ably noted, Brett Gardner could conceivably turn into Nyjer Morgan, with Gardner’s 22 defensive runs saved last season proving to be an aberration. What we can safely say, however, is that Gardner ranks among the best fly-chasers in baseball, and does a much better job of saving runs than his right-field counterpart, Nick Swisher. A left-handed flyball pitcher like Zito thus gains another little edge if he prompts more righties to swing against him, thus pushing more balls in the air toward left or left-center field.

But the most compelling argument for Zito, oddly, is his price. Which is to say, his asking price. Brian Sabean has made his share of curious moves over the years, his World Series ring notwithstanding. But it’s hard to imagine he’d think twice about unloading the last three years (plus an option) of Zito’s massive contract, especially with the front four of his rotation ranking with any other front four outside Philadelphia. Even potentially available pitchers with fairly modest resumes like Paul Maholm or Fausto Carmona would likely require a lot more talent in return than Zito would, given their much more desirable contract status, and youth.

Meanwhile, trading for Zito would essentially be acquiring a free agent, only without surrendering any compensation picks. If the Giants were to pick up half of the guaranteed $64.5 million left in Zito’s deal, he would still likely cost next to nothing in trade. Paying a potential 2-win pitcher about $11 million a year for the next three seasons — even if Zito slips a little with age — isn’t the worst outcome for a Yankees team that sorely needs some rotation stability, and has more of a win-now mandate than just about any other team in any sport.

Of course there is one last option for the Yankees: Go into the season with what you have, see what happens, and maybe think about a deadline deal. For a team with such bountiful resources, that’s a puzzling suggestion. The Red Sox look like clear favorites in the AL East. The Rays are primed for another potential playoff run; a somewhat suspect bullpen isn’t nearly as scary as a potentially lousy three-fifths of a rotation. Even the loser of the AL West battle between the Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s could be a very strong Wild Card contender this season, especially with light competition behind them. If the Yanks wait too long, they might fall too far behind the competition to make it back to the big dance.

To maximize their playoff chances, the Yankees should do something soon. Barry Zito could be the simplest route to 2 more wins in 2011.




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Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First -- now a National Bestseller! Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahKeri, and check out his awesome podcast.


112 Responses to “The Yankees Should Trade for Barry Zito”

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  1. Steve says:

    Thank You! I said this over on baseball-monk.com as soon as Lee went to the phils!

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  2. Beau says:

    Zito for Jeter!

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  3. It’s funny. I kind of chuckled at the headline (“lol why would anyone do that?”), but all these points make sense. I’ll wait for some comments from smarter people than me, but I’m mostly sold. [granted, not a NYY fan, but trying to look objectively]

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  4. Eric says:

    Awesome! When thinking about the Yankees trading for Zito and his contract, I don’t quite understand why they aren’t going after another from Oakland A, Joe Blanton. The Yankees need starters and the Phillies want to get rid of Blanton’s contract. Why don’t the Yankees just offer to take Blanton’s whole contract off the Phillies hands?

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    • quincy0191 says:

      Amaro has said they’re not looking to move Blanton, and every day that goes by seems to indicate more and more that he wasn’t kidding. I do think they’d be smart to dump him, but apparently they aren’t interested.

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      • NEPP says:

        Why dump him if you can afford him? He’s a solid starter who will be their #5. He’s great insurance for the Big 4 (three of whom are in their 30s) and he gives them great depth. If they cant get a good return for him, its smarter to just pay him as he’s a consistent 2 Win player.

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    • Red says:

      This, all the way. If Zito makes sense, Blanton makes a lot more sense. Blanton may be right handed, but he’s cheaper, better, and only on a two year contract. And the Phillies actually have guys available to be the 5th starter if they trade Blanton, which, if we believe our Bay Area posters below, the Giants do not.

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Red, if it’s just a matter of taking over their contracts then yeah, Blanton makes a lot more sense. But one of the reasons for acquiring Zito (per the article) is that the yankees wouldn’t have to give up anything for him. That wouldn’t be the case with Blanton. I’m sure philly would want a good prospect in return. Or as rotoworld says, they would want a ‘premium’ prospect.

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      • Red says:

        Well, I’m rather committed Phillies fan, and I haven’t seen much that suggests they want a prospect; they want salary relief.

        Generally speaking, the Phils were originally interested in trading Blanton to reduce payroll. I can’t possibly see a scenario in which a team takes on 75%+ of Blanton’s contract (2 years $16M) and also sends along an actual prospect. I think that’s even more true now than when the initial reports about trading Blanton came out. We can thank Pavano and his two year deal for that.

        If the Phils want a prospect back, then I agree Zito may be a better target. But I haven’t seen those reports.

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      • John says:

        I don’t think the phillies are looking for much for Blanton. Some have suggested trading him for a coffee and donuts…

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    • Robbie G. says:

      It’s hard to believe that the Philly brass does not value a good right-handed OF bat more than a good #5 starter. The logical thing to do, in my opinion, is to trade Blanton and his remaining salary for Prospect Package X, and to then trade Prospect Package X (or something very comparable) for that right-handed OF bat. Philly is not only losing Jayson Werth but also his big right-handed bat in the middle of that lineup full of left-handed middle-of-the-order hitters. Carlos Quentin? Alternatively, Philly could trade Prospect Package X for Chone Figgins, who would not only resolve their top-of-the-order problems but could also play multiple positions (e.g., RF against LHPs, 3B to give Placido Polanco a day off, LF to give Raul Ibanez a day off, 2B if/when Chase Utley ends up on the DL again). The Phillies will surely find Figgins more useful in the postseason, when they shift to a four-man rotation, than a #5 starter!

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      • Robbie G. says:

        By the way, I don’t think that my “Prospect Package X” would be much of a package. Philly shouldn’t get anything particularly valuable for Blanton, but they also shouldn’t have to give up anything particularly valuable for Figgins, in my opinion.

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  5. FYI: many Giants fans understand that the Zito signing was not a Brian Sabean led venture, but a Peter Magowan marketing ploy. The fact that Sabean stayed while Magowan took off soon afterward stating the desire to play with his grandchildren while being replace by Bill Neukom – WHO IS OLDER and has grandchildren too – would suggest that the Giants braintrust understood that as well.

    And as bad as he looks for his salary, the Yankees can’t do better without giving up something valuable. But not at half savings on salary, for that they will have to give up a good prospect, there is nobody on the market that they can get for nothing at that price.

    The GIants could use salary relief, but with Zito, they don’t have to worry that much about the loss of any starter, as Zito would still make a good #4 starter, as they fill in a journeyman in #5. If Zito is traded and one goes down, now they have two journeyman in the rotation and repeating at NL West Division winner or even making the playoffs will be iffy at best, unless Sandoval and Belt hit as advertised, along with Posey, Huff, Torres, Ross, and Tejada, a lot of ifs. The Giants could still coast through this season with him and next season it is only 2 more years on the contract and he’ll be much easier to offload with some cash or getting back a bad contract. The Yankees would have to make it worth their while.

    However, I can see the Giants basically paying for one season salary – one-third – spread over three seasons would mean roughly $7M per season paid by Giants, $14-5M paid by Yankees – and they would only have to give up replacement level players, like the Expos did in the Livan trade, and the Giants paid them $7M in that case too, for a season.

    Zito is not that valuable when you need an ace. But if you are looking for a mid-to-back rotation starter, he is very valuable, especially in the tough AL East, in particular for the reasons stated above. And $14-5M is not that much of an overpay to get that type of depth in your rotation, especially if you are not giving up any prospect of much value in the trade.

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    • That is, “for the reasons stated in the article above by Keri…”

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      • notsellingjeans says:

        “FYI: Many Giants fans understand…”

        Your statement that followed that implied that you are privy to some insider information on the subject, but I suspect you’re just making an educated guess. Is that correct?

        Because if it’s just speculation, we could also speculate that Magowan was complicit in Bonds’ steroid use, and that led a forced ouster, with the grandkids/family time cover story.

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      • Andrew says:

        It’s not private knowledge. It’s something that is universally understood in San Francisco, and it has never, ever been publicly denied.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Yup! If you understand how Magowan operated when he took over the Giants, it’s pretty easy to see his fingerprints all over the Zito contract. He personally negotiated the, up to that point, largest contract in baseball history with Barry Bonds before he even hired a GM. He really didn’t know anything about how good Bonds was as a player, but he knew all about Bonds’ connections to the Giants and thought the local boy coming home was a great way to sell tickets. He asked some baseball people he knew what they thought of bringing Bonds to SF and they gave him a thumbs up. He met up with Bonds in a hotel suite and got the deal done right then and there.

        Fast forward to the end of Bonds career and who was a bigger draw in the Bay Area than Barry Zito? Put all that together with Magowan’s apparent forced retirement, Sabean being kept on, and a newfound commitment to building through the draft and farm system when Neuks came in and it all adds up.

        It wouldn’t shock me one bit if we eventually find out that Sabean complained about the Zito deal and the direction of the team to the other members of the ownership group and succeeded in convincing them to can Magowan.

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      • sleepingcobra says:

        Aaron Rowand.

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    • My belief is that it’s too soon to write Barry Zito off as a starter. He certainly has the skills and ability. I think he’s got a mental block that’s been holding him back from doing his best under pressure. If he can overcome that, I think he would be an exciting pitcher again and worth every dollar the Giants pay him.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I think he’s got a mental block that’s been holding him back from doing his best under pressure.

        Which is funny … because the question of whether he can “pitch in Yankee Stadium” has not been brought up once? … and it’s usually the focus of discussion (unfortunately).

        There’s a lot of players in MLB that may have a “mental block” that prevents them from reaching their potentials.

        In the end, mental block is just slang for “not enough talent”, with “usetheforcedness” notwithstanding.

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  6. Mike R. says:

    If I’m Brian Cashman, I ask for significant salary relief and a high upside middle infielder (doesn;t have to be too close to the majors).

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    • Ari Collins says:

      And if I’m Brian Sabean, I say, “I don’t need the salary relief so bad I’m giving up a prospect too.”

      But if Brian Sabean is Brian Sabean, he might give up the prospect just for the hell of it.

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    • Matt C. says:

      good luck on that. might as well ask for Belt as well while you’re at it, lol..

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    • mhad says:

      Cashman: We’re looking for starting pitching.

      Sabean: Well, we can offer you money and prospects if you’ll take Zito too.

      Cashman: Show me the money.

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  7. Phil says:

    Good article and very good points. As it appears the Yankees don’t have much to lose, and if Vernon Wells’ contract can get traded anyone’s can. As a Cubs fan can we see if anybody would take Soriano’s contract…

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  8. jj says:

    The only thing this doesn’t consider is the fact the giants have NO other option in the rotation other than the five guys already slotted in there. I don’t know if they can give zito up

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    • Milby says:

      Bingo. As a SF resident and fan I’d love to see Zito out, but our depth beyond the starting 5 is actually quite surprising; it’s something I’m worried about even without a Zito trade.

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    • chuckb says:

      they could sign Millwood for 1 year and $4-5 million. They save $30+ million and lose only a win or 2 this year.

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      • Matt says:

        So, they save 10 million per year, spend 5 per year, and lose 1 or 2 wins (average cost of those being 5 million)

        10-5-7.5= -2.5million Why should they do this?

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  9. chuckb says:

    This is actually a great idea from the Yankees’ perspective, and maybe also from the Giants’. It seems to make sense for the Giants, since they could rid themselves of that contract and replace Zito with Millwood or someone of his ilk on a 1 year deal and lose only a win or so. It seems a small price to pay in order to save $35-40 million.

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  10. Steve says:

    yeah i can see the gmen pulling the trigger if the y’s were to take on the whole enchilada or pretty close to it since they’d probably have to replace him with one of the much maligned pitchers above. and the giants aren’t really in a financial bind right now.

    the other thing is that zito has no trade coverage in his contract. and i have a hard time seeing him willingly go to a northeastern team. the boys on the giants had a lot of fun last year, even before they made the playoffs. i don’t imagine zito would have fun in ny.

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  11. quincy0191 says:

    “If the Giants were to pick up half of the guaranteed $64.5 million left in Zito’s deal, he would still likely cost next to nothing in trade.”

    This is where you lose me. Unless the Yankees are willing to part with a significant prospect, getting Zito will require them to pay nearly all (if not all) of his contract. The Giants aren’t hurting for money all that badly, and paying Zito $9M a season to pitch for the Yankees is a terrible idea for them considering the lack of rotation depth. We’d have to go out and acquire another starter, which isn’t going to be free, and we’d need pretty much every penny we save. So how do the Giants benefit? There’s really no other viable option (which is exactly why the Yankees would look at Zito), and SF is trying to contend based on the pitching staff; we can’t sustain the loss of a two-win starter, even if he is making a ton of money, in a very tight NL West.

    From the Yanks’ perspective, it’s a great deal. Zito’s been worth around $9M (half his salary) for the last two years, so the Yankees would be getting the starter they need at a below-market price given the lack of viable SPs and the generally lucrative contracts that have been signed this offseason. And they don’t have to give up anything of value.

    This trade just doesn’t pass the win-win test; there’s no reason for the Giants to make it. They save some money now and in the future, but it’s too late to use it to make themselves better in 2011, and presumably we’re trying to contend after winning a World Series last year. Plus, they lose an important (if overpaid) player without an immediate replacement. The difference between Zito and the next guy is at least two wins, and possibly more if they turn out to be Todd Wellemeyer 2.0. It’s not hard to imagine that could cost us the division. The only way this works out is if the Yankees either throw in a good prospect/player or pick up nearly all of Zito’s contract. Then the Giants gain enough financial flexibility to make it worthwhile or get something of value while shedding some salary, and the Yankees upgrade their rotation on a budget or without having to part with anything except cash, which they have quite a lot of.

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    • MDB says:

      I also don’t see the Giants paying half of Zito’s contract as win-win. What’s the point then? The Giants save 30 million dollars but are short a 2 win pitcher. The Giants would have to save more like 40-50 million for it to be worth it. And then the Yankees are paying Zito 40-50 million over the next three seasons which only makes sense in the context that the Yankees have money to burn.

      Granted the Soriano signing shows they do, in fact, have money to burn.

      Kyle Lohse also makes sense as a money to burn acquisition for the Yankees if the Cardinals need some salary relief.

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  12. Scott says:

    As a giants fan, I would love it if this happens, especially if they only have to pay 1/3 or less of his remaining salary. The giants already have 67 million tied up in 5 players for 2012, and that’s without whatever Lincecum will get (20 million?).

    http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=t4r9nky1EouVJsFXQlv3FKQ&output=html

    That means the chances of keeping someone like Jonathan Sanchez (who, if you look at the contracts of comparable pitchers, would probably get at least 12 million per year if the giants buy out his last arb year) are small. I don’t think anyone would argue that keeping Sanchez going forward is more valuable than having Zito around.

    As someone said above, picking up someone like Millwood for 1 year/5 million would be much better than Zito at 3 years/64 million. While Zito may be a marginally better pitcher in 2011, they would both be fifth starters and the chance to keep the 4 best pitchers in the rotation together from 2012-whenever would be more valuable.

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  13. I would like this — although I don’t know that the replacements for Zito are that decent…I would LOVE it if they covered Zito’s entire salary, though.

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  14. Preston says:

    This would be really short sighted. I’m a Barry Zito defender. It’s not his fault he’s overpaid. He takes the ball every fifth day and gives his team innings. But quite frankly I don’t think he gets enough ground balls or strikeouts to be effective in Yankee Stadium in the AL East. I don’t normally buy into how different the leagues are but seriously the NL West is the weakest offensive division in baseball, the AL East is the strongest, Zito currently plays in a very friendly pitchers park and Yankee stadium is anything but. It’s also a mistake to think the Yankees can just absorb any amount of money, he’s owed at least 3 years and 64 million. With unlikely but not impossible to achieve vesting option for another year and 11 more million. A-Rod, Tex, Jeter, AJ and Sabathia already limit the Yankees financial flexibility, Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano and Jared Wright already showed that to many unproductive big contracts can have an affect on the Yankees ability to win. Plus the Yankees do have a lot of good pitching in their farm system. Three pitchers who were in Keith Laws top 100 (Manny Banuelos was 12) and John Sickels gave 8 pitchers a rating in the B range. And all 8 of them will start the season at AA or higher. Even if none of those pitchers are ready to make an impact in 2011 (Nova and Phelps probably are) that’s a lot of young starters close to the big leagues to use in trades.

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    • Goofus says:

      “Zito currently plays in a very friendly pitchers park”

      This is a fallacy. AT&T Park plays pretty neutral. While left-center is really deep, the rest of the park plays very fair. An addtion, hitters benefit from the VERY small foul territory, especially behind home plate.

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  15. jj3bagger says:

    Dear Yankees, please trade for Derek Lowe instead. Signed, Braves Fans Everywhere

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    • jordan says:

      dear jj3bagger,

      one ex-brave pitcher was 157.1 innings more than enough for us.

      enjoy your time with derek,

      yankees

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    • fredsbank says:

      dear derek,
      we remember what the fucker did for boston in those seasons we dont like to talk about
      sincerely,
      yanks

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  16. jordan says:

    no shot the yankees should even consider this. the thought of barry zito making half of his starts in yankee stadium is going to give me nightmares for months. if you’d set the over/under for his ERA as a yankee anywhere below 5.00, you’re bonkers.

    the yanks also have some in-house options. ivan nova and sergio mitre together are likely to give you at least as many innings and at least as good ratios, so count them as a #4. in terms of a #5, their pickings off the scrap heap and from their system probably won’t be THAT much worse than zito. hector noesi, d.j. phillips, and david phelps have pitched in AAA, and brackman and betances both hit AA last year. freddy garcia and bartolo colon are unlikely to pan out, but who knows? and the yanks still have kei igawa, who threw 75 solid innings at AAA last year.

    the takeaway: everyone i’ve named combined will cost maybe a tenth of what Zito would cost, even if the giants picked up half his salary. and i think it’s fairly likely that you’ll find 400 innings of zito-in-the-AL-east-quality pitching in that pile of names.

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  17. Canadian Bay says:

    Oliver Perez says hi…

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  18. Scout Finch says:

    One more article that suggests Zito would succeed in New York:

    His record in games with run support >4 is absurd. I don’t have access to it right now, but if you follow the Giants you know they beat this stat into the ground.

    Yes, the Yankees would assuredly score 4+ runs per game more frequently than the Gigantes.

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  19. nolan says:

    If Zito has a no trade clause I seriously doubt he’s going anywhere, as much as it makes sense for both teams.

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  20. Nick says:

    I’ve been wondering about a Chris Carpenter – Ivan Nova swap. It goes without saying that the Cardinals could use the extra money right now.

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  21. MGP says:

    Won’t Zito”s contract be higher for the Yankee’s than any other team due to an increase i n Luxury Tax if they add more salary? I’m not saying it would be a bad idea, just wondering.

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  22. fredsbank says:

    i laughed at the title and then thought, “well jonah keri is probably the best writer here at the moment, i’m sure there’s something viable about his arrival at such a conclusion”

    i was rewarded for my risk, mr. keri

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  23. Mafrth77 says:

    100bb & 50 hr

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  24. DrBGiantsfan says:

    I think it would be the Giants that say no to this trade. There is no evidence that Barry Zito’s contract is a hindrence to them. He made right around 20 QS last year which is more than they likely get from any replacement including Millwood. The only way they give it any consideration at all is if the Yanks take on his entire remaining salary. Even at that, if they are looking to repeat as champs, which it is clear they are, they would need a replacement that is at least as good which I don’t see out there right now.

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    • No evidence that Barry Zito’s contract is a hindrance? Remind me again, who did the Giants sign this off season? Oh, right. Nobody.

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      • quincy0191 says:

        Remind me again, who did the Giants need to sign this offseason?

        Huff put up MVP numbers last year, Torres broke out and will play quality defense if nothing else, Ross is a 2-3 win player, Burrell’s back for a million and DeRosa provides insurance for him and Sandoval, and Belt provides extra insurance because DeRosa isn’t particularly reliable, Tejada would have a hard time being worse than Renteria, though he will be worse than Uribe, Sanchez is a decent hitter and plays pretty good defense, and Posey is one of the brightest rising stars in the game today.

        Meanwhile, there are a front four to match anyone, up to and including Philadelphia if you’re a Giants homer or feel a little charitable towards the young starters/concerned about the injury risk of Philly’s aging staff, and Zito’s one of the best No. 5′s in the game. The bullpen is rock solid, with Wilson anchoring the 9th inning and a few more reliable closing options in Romo, Affeldt, and possibly even Casilla.

        The Giants brought Huff back to fill the 1B “hole” (because Belt is probably ready, but they don’t want to take chances) and Tejada to man SS. They spent money on what they needed to do, and didn’t go out and grab a big-name FA because they didn’t need to. Or because they couldn’t. Really, it doesn’t matter either way, because to return to the original question: Who did the Giants need to sign this offseason? Nobody.

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        FA: Aubrey Huff, Miggy Tejada. Arb eligible: Andres Torres, Cody Ross, Jonathan Sanchez, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez. They didn’t have to offer arbitration to any of those players and they all got fairly big raises. The Giants payroll is rising from the high $90 M range to around $115 M. World Champs didn’t need to sign any mega contracts!

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      • DrBGiantsfan says:

        Oh, and I am very sure that if the Yankees offered to just take Zito and his entire salary off the Giants hands with nothing in return, the Giants would say no. They actually are quite happy with Zeets. He shows up every 5′th game, hasn’t missed one start since he was signed. He’s been a lightning rod that deflected negative attention away from Cain, Lincecum and Sanchez in their formative years. He actually gives them a lot of QS’s. Yes, he’s overpaid, but the Giants couldn’t replace what he gives them for less than $10 M so they are actually only out about $8 M/year.

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    • Muggi says:

      It’s not about being a hinderance right now, it’s about being one over the next three seasons.

      2012-13 is going to be a HUGE budget crunch for the Giants, even with their commitment to go to $120m+ payroll. Their farm is pretty barren right now behind Belt and Wheeler, so they’re going to have to lock up existing guys or hit FA.

      With the crazy number of guys that need contracts in the next two seasons (Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez (both of em), Wilson) plus a number of guys they probably won’t re-sign (Tejada, DeRosa, Ross) needing to be replaced, combined with the lack of depth in the minors, plus a whole bunch of guys hitting arbitration… they’re going to need every penny to field a competitive team.

      Maybe they keep him and go for it all again this year, and I can’t say I blame them, but with the contract storm hitting them shortly an extra $20m goes a long way.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        2012-13 is going to be a HUGE budget crunch for the Giants, even with their commitment to go to $120m+ payroll.

        Okay, isn;t that even more reason to try and win the WS in 2011?

        As many others have pointed out, losing Zito leaves a gap that they cannot fill at this point in time.

        So, try and win again in 2011, and deal with other issues after the year.

        Why lose now, (assuming a close division race), and then hope you’re able to resign everyone you need to in 2012-13? There’s no guarantee of that either.

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  25. Ben Hall says:

    It’s not clear to me that Zito makes sense instead of Millwood. Zito’s xFIP over the last two years: 4.46, 4.77. Millwood’s are 4.78 and 4.66. Similar numbers of innings. Zito’s numbers, of course, come in the National League in a park that’s great for fly ball pitchers, whereas Millwood’s come in the AL, in first a hitter’s park (Texas) and then the AL East. Zito’s leftiness might make him marginally better in Yankee Stadium, but I don’t think it’s clear. And even when money’s no object, spending twice as much (if you get the Giants to kick in half) and being on the hook for three years for one year doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    Frankly, I don’t get when they haven’t signed Millwood.

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  26. Joltin' Joe says:

    I understand that an average SP would be worth about $11 million on the market, but if you’re committing to him for three years, and the Giants have no spot for him, the Yanks should hold out for a bigger paycheck from Sabean and co. I would like to have him but not at that price.

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  27. Lance W says:

    “If the Giants were to pick up half of the guaranteed $64.5 million left in Zito’s deal, he would still likely cost next to nothing in trade.”

    I think people would have been freaked out much less if this came earlier in the article.

    Still, I don’t know if I buy that the Yankees being the Yankees makes this viable. They can still probably find better uses for the money later on, even if not for 2011.

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  28. Jonah Keri says:

    The Yankees, to me, don’t need to lead the league in efficiency per dollar. They shouldn’t even try. They should just spend as much as it takes and compete for a World Series every year. I know that sounds painfully simplistic…but I just don’t think they should care if a contract here or there is on the high side. As long as they’re not laying out nine figures for mediocre players, they can overcome pretty much anything.

    So I have to politely disagree with “even if not for 2011.” It has to be for 2011 – even if it’s not Zito (who’s obviously just one idea), it should be someone. These are the Yankees. Should only be one goal, each and every year.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jonah, this is a compelling article. But don’t you think Zambrano might be a better fit? Three reasons: 1) He’s a better pitcher, 2) he’s only signed for two more seasons (his 2013 option is extremely unlikely to vest), and 3) he’s cheaper by a total of $21+ million.

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      • quincy0191 says:

        On the other hand, he’s insane. The effect of the NY media does get overhyped, and it’s not like Chicago is super low-key or anything, but that’s still not a move I’m prepared to make if I’m the Yankees. Zito will take the ball every fifth day, and you don’t need to worry about him snapping and killing hookers.

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      • True, but Zito isn’t exactly a picture of sanity either.

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  29. Barry Z says:

    Sorry guys, im a west coast guy.
    I hear the surf is awful in NY.

    Now if the Angels wanted my services I would be happy to waive my no trade clause…

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  30. Ruff Ruff says:

    You state that there’s some potential for success and then begin with Zito’s durability.

    I’m not sure I’d agree that durability is a “potential for success”?

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    • Tedfordfan says:

      Sure it is. Injury is guaranteed failure – a complete waste of money for the time that the pitcher is injured. If a pitcher is healthy, he can pitch, which means there’s a possibility of pitching well. Thus, “potential” for success.

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    • fredsbank says:

      yeah there’s lots of really successful people who were constantly hurt…

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  31. phoenix2042 says:

    anyone else think it might behoove the yankees to trade for wandy rodriguez?

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    • quincy0191 says:

      They’d have to give up significant prospects for Rodriguez. He’s a damned fine pitcher and would likely cost a hell of a lot more than Zito, who could probably be had off waivers. On the other hand, the ‘Stros got just about nothing for Berkman and Oswalt, so maybe you’re onto something.

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      • Muggi says:

        They got SOMEthing for Oswalt, though flipping Gose was a mistake IMO. Happ is a (so far) dependable 3-4.

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      • chuckb says:

        I’m not sure that Wandy would cost a hell of a lot more. Wandy just re-signed w/ the Astros for 3 yrs and $34.5 million. First of all, that tells me the Astros are unlikely to want to trade him. Secondly, it also makes Wandy much less valuable in a trade. He’s a pretty good pitcher but it’s not clear to me that his deal is particularly team friendly. He is 32, after all. If the Astros were to trade him, they wouldn’t get a ton for him, though they would get something, which is more than the Giants would get for Zito.

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  32. Zito has a full no-trade clause. I love the points you made in the article and agree with them from the Yankees point of view. But why would Zito do it?

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    • I guess you could try and make the standard argument that the Yankees have a chance to win, but considering that Zito just won last year, you’d have to amend the argument to being a part of winning, which, having been left off the playoff roster,* Zito wasn’t really.

      *This is my recollection, I know he was left off some of the series rosters but I don’t recall if he was off all of them.

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  33. Say Hey Kid says:

    Although I’ve heard the speculation that McGowan was behind the Zito signing, I have never heard anything definite. I wonder why some want to give Sabean a pass on this one. Sabean’s history at FA signings is littered with bad deals like Alfonso, Renteria, Durham…need I go

    Many have also said that the Giants are not hurting financially. I would agree with this but yet their big FA signing was Tejada? I’m sure Giants ownership is rolling in it especially after the championship but they don’t seem eager to push payroll past the 120 mil mark. So if they can move Zito’s contract maybe they could be more aggressive in next year’s offseason.

    Yes, it would hurt their rotation depth but we are talking about the 5th starter spot here. They did just sign Suppan and are in the process of converting Runzler. Plus Timmy, Cain, and Sanchez are going to have to be re-upped soon so they could use that money there. I say if NY is willing pull that trigger!

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    • Good point about Sabean. His history doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that signing Zito wasn’t his (bad) idea.

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      Replacing Zito with Suppan would hurt the Giants chances of repeating as WS champs, which is their primary goal right now.

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    • Mike says:

      Ray Durham had a lot of great years with the Giants, not sure what was wrong with that signing. I’m still not sure how Ray didn’t get a single job offer in 2009 after a pretty darn productive 2008 season where he put up a .380 OBP. Also, how dare you call signing the world series MVP a bad deal. More like the best deal in baseball history.

      Who exactly did you want the Giants to sign this year? The FA market was pretty bad this year and all the guys at the top got absolutely monstrous contracts. The Giants did good by not wasting money in a poor market with inflated prices.

      Obviously it would be awesome to get rid of Zito and replace him with someone like Millwood, but I think the Giants are probably OK financially after that world series win.

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    • Goofus says:

      Why is the 5th starter so much less important than the others? He might end up with one less start, but the games he pitches matter just as much, especially if they’re going to limit MadBum’s innings this season.

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  34. Bobby Boden says:

    zambrano! buy zambrano!

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  35. pft says:

    This makes good sense, for the Yankees. Also, with the Red Sox LH heavy lineup, having another LHP’er should be useful. Maybe Zito just needs a change of scenery, and needs to get out of California. However, as mentioned, he has a full NTC and probably likes Californias weather.

    The Giants would want something in return, perhaps another picther to repalce Zito, Nova or Phelps. As mentioned, his numbers are not that awful with the Giants the past 2 years, just not what they expected.

    Maybe the Yankees should pursue Santana and take a chance his shoulder problems are manageable. Mets might be looking to dump the risk and dollars at this point.

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    • MikeD says:

      Nova or Phelps are too good for Zito. Seriously.

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      • MikeD says:

        …and I should add that I’m not saying Nova and Phelps will be good. I’m just saying they’re too good for Zito.

        Here’s how the conversations should go if Brian Sabean calls Brian Cashman:

        Sabean: Cash, buddy, how’s it going. I see you have some rotation issues to start the year, perhps I can help.

        Cashman: Sure, Sabe, you looking to move Matt Cain, or somebody?

        Sabean: No, no, not Cain. I’m talking about Barry Zito.

        Click…dial tone.

        Sabean: Cash, you there?

        Ring.

        Sabean: Hi, Cash. Okay, how about if we pay half of Zito’s salary, and you send in return Nova, Phelps or Noesi.

        Click…dial tone.

        Ring.

        Sabean: Hi, Cash. Okay, okay. I get where you’re coming at. We’ll pay $15 our of $17 million each year. That’s only $2 million a season for you guys. All we need is Nova, Phelps or Noesi.

        Click…dial tone.

        Ring.

        Sabean: Cash, what the hell. It’s not like Nova, Phelp or Noesi are projected at anything more than #4 or #5s. Okay, we’ll pay Zito’s ENTIRE contract if you traded us one of those back-end guys.

        Click…dial tone.

        Ring.

        No answer.
        ———

        I don’t think Zito has any chance of remaining in the Yankees rotation, even in it’s current state.

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      • Required says:

        MikeD,

        Do not post another of your “conversations” on this website.

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    • DCHASE says:

      Zito did not really handle lefties better than righties last year.

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  36. MikeD says:

    Zito projects out to a 5.00+ ERA in the AL East. The Yankees just jettisoned another NL pitcher, Javy Vazquez, for fashioning his own 5.00 ERA last year. Even if the Giants want to pay half of his contract, the Yankees have no need for Zito. The Yankees might as well go with another one of their back-end rotation prospects in 2011, or even Garcia. Zito will not outpitch them and they will cost a lot less than Zito. Stick a fork in him.

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  37. SnowLeopardSF says:

    Every time Zito reels off a few decent to good starts in a row, he gives an interview where he says that he is finally learning to do what his therapist tells him to, which is relax, “have fun”, and not get stressed out about the pressure the size of his contract puts on him. I don’t think that having ten million screaming Yankee fans riding his a** every time he walks two guys in a row would help him out much there.

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  38. CJ says:

    Doesn’t Zito have a no trade clause? Every time I hear Zito trade ideas discussed, the usual response is that Zito would never agree to a trade to a location outside of California.

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  39. Dinkpiece says:

    what about Carlos Zambrano as a target? Similar reasons behind it, perhaps a little more upside

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  40. DCHASE says:

    Tony Reagins, is that you? Are you looking for someone to make a trade for a contract worse than the one you just picked up?

    Look at it this way, if Zito were a free agent, no way he makes even half of his current contract. Why would they Yankees trade for it? I would rather they trade for Johan, at least there is a chance for upside.

    You mention the Yankee Stadium dimensions as a plus, but half the games are away from there. How would Yankee fans feel looking at Zito’s 2-3 or god forbid 4 starts at Fenway? Moving from the NL West to the AL East will show just how far removed he is from being a competent pitcher. Frankly, I’d rather they take their chances on Mitre and his groundballing ways. I don’t see Zito as an upgrade, and the financial commitment (and roster spot) would likely keep them from trading for or signing a real pitcher later

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  41. clyde says:

    “A potential 2-win pitcher”?

    Please say that’s a typo…

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  42. Fred says:

    This is one of those halfway decent (and slightly insane) ideas that will never happen in any universe, perhaps if the Yankees hired a goon to be their GM we’d see more moves like this though.

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  43. Jonah Keri says:

    Halfway decent and slightly insane is exactly the reputation I’m hoping to forge as a writer. So this is great to hear.

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  44. westside says:

    Good try! (you’re kidding right?) How about M. Cain + B. Zito with his full salary for Joba Chamberlain or Andrew Brackman + some level B prospects. Then NYY DFA’s Zito and trades him back to the Giants for minimum salary. Good Deal Huh?

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  45. Mary Ann says:

    Yanks don’t want Blanton or Zito. I’d rather go with Nova and see if Garcia can make the team. A fifth starter isn’t really needed for a few weeks after the season starts. I am hoping Brackman can make the team. Then during the season, some team will drop out and want to dump salary. Right now they should stand pat.

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  46. jake says:

    Honestly, this article is so stupid that i can’t believe it was written. Having such a short sight that you can justify paying a rag-arm has-been 20 mil a year for the next 3 years is total Steinbrenneritis. You do realize you can find someone at AAA, or even off the scrap heap, that can give you the exact same results that Barry Zito would, right? For about 19 million less? And then you wouldn’t have to keep doing that for 2 more years?

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  47. phoenix2042 says:

    right now they should stand pat because they got a lot of cheap fliers on 5th starters like garcia and colon (maybe millwood too), as well as kids like nova, brackman or prospects banuelos or betances… then there is also mitre who makes spot starts every now and again. i would love for them to get another reliable pitcher (#3 or better), but there simply isnt anyone out there that wouldnt take the entire farm to get. they should wait till midseason when teams fall out of contention and want to jettison some payroll. then you will start to see a few decent arms on the block, and you will have a better idea about what the 5th starters they are currently using look like, so they know how badly they need someone. the yankees should begin hunting for a good to very good arm for the stretch run and the postseason around late June and July. those same 5th starter option may even wind up providing some good depth in the case of an injury as well, especially if they trade for an arm midseason, making those kids less necessary pieces.

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  48. Vinnie Lars says:

    Yeah!!! It make sense for the Giants to get rid of his contract!!! Then the Yankees can have the two worst contracts in baseball history. Zito and Burnett!!!!!

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  49. joeyp says:

    jonah, normally youre a good writer, but in this case youre dead wrong, why cant the yankees just do the smart thing, and be patient, so they dont win this year, they have a ton of arms in the pipeline in Brackman, Banuelos, Betances, Phelps, Mitchell, a potential bid for Darvish next year, so why tie up your rotation for 4 years of Zito?

    Thats insane. Why not take their lumps now and steal Cain or Sanchez when The Giants arte paying Lincecum and Zito 45M a year ? The Giants wont be able to afford a S75M group of starters will they?

    The Giants are stuck with Zito, why should we take him when keeping him where he is is the best thing a yankee fan could hope for
    ?

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    • phoenix2042 says:

      agreed. wait and grab someone good when a team really needs to drop payroll, maybe at the deadline. this also gives them another year to let the young pitchers get some more experience before they get called up for good. maybe banuelos and betances and brackman can be september call ups or even midseason call ups if the rotation or the bullpen needs help. next year a couple of them can be mainstays in the rotation.

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  50. Jeff says:

    That’s a horrid idea. Free-Spirit Zito+New York Media=Disaster. And that’s the non-stat part of the game. If you look at his home runs, they will increase dramatically. His strikeouts will go down, his walks will surely go up. He’s already a mediocre pitcher in the NL. The american league will destroy him. I’d rather go with Ivan Nova and hope someone can be acquired at teh deadline.

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  51. mellott says:

    ZITO=GARCIA
    YUP

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