San Francisco Giants: 7 Options They Have with Barry Zito
Over the course of his entire 11-year career, Barry Zito had never spent time on the disabled list, until 2011. Zito hurt his foot trying to field a bunt, which was a blessing in disguise for the Giants.
Prior to his injury, Zito was pitching poorly with a 6.23 ERA in his three starts. He was allowing a high number of base runners with WHIP ratio of 1.538. The Giants found a gem in Ryan Vogelsong, who replaced Zito in the rotation.
Vogelsong has pitched extremely well as a replacement for Zito. He is currently 4-1 with an ERA of 1.81. More importantly, he has earned his spot in the rotation and will not be going anywhere.
Zito has thrown 13.2 innings with the Giants' single A affiliate in San Jose. He has pitched well in his two rehab starts, giving up eight hits, three earned runs and three walks, while striking out 12. These stats look good but remember this is against Single-A hitters.
The Giants have 30 days from his first rehab start to make a decision on Zito. I do not expect them to do anything until the Giants head to Chicago on June 28, when they will need an extra starter for a day-night double header.
Let's take a look at some of the options the Giants have with Barry Zito.
7) Waive Him
As much as the Giants may want to, it is simply too expensive to release Barry Zito. They are currently on the hook for the remainder of his $18.5 million in 2011. In addition, Zito is owed $39 million in 2012 and 2013, along with a $7 million buyout in 2014.
The Giants are not prepared to eat somewhere between $ 46 - $ 57 million. Waiving Zito is not a realistic option.
6) Trade Him
The huge salary still owed to Barry Zito makes it virtually impossible to trade him. The only way the Giants could move Zito is to subsidize probably 75-80 percent of his remaining salary. Frankly, the Giants are unlikely to eat $40-45 million just to make a trade.
The only trade rumor that seems to have even remote credibility is for Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees. Posada is unhappy in New York and has been feuding with manager Joe Girardi. Posada's is owed $13.1 million for the remainder of this season, so his salary largely offsets Zito's for 2011.
The Yankees could be willing to make a deal because they need pitching and their offense is capable of scoring enough runs to help make Zito a winner. If New York is interested and willing to take on 50 percent of Zito's remaining salary for 2012-14, I think it would be worth it for the Giants to make that trade.
The Giants would have a catcher in Posada that could catch maybe three out of every seven games and also could be rejuvenated with a new team. The investment to make this deal would cost the Giants roughly $23 million, but they would also reap a savings of the same amount.
For this trade to become a reality, the Giants must believe that Posada can still catch. In addition, the two teams must agree on a suitable financial arrangement which is still problematical.
Do I think the Giants will be able to trade Barry Zito in 2011, without losing $40-$45 million?
My honest answer is that it is very unlikely. Nevertheless, GM Brian Sabean should definitely see if the Yankees have any real interest.
5) Insert Him Into The Starting Rotation and Demote Someone Else
One of the options the Giants have is to insert Zito back into the starting rotation and remove someone else.
Barring injury, I do not see this happening. All five of the current starters have earned their spot in the rotation and to demote one of them is extremely unlikely.
Manager Bruce Bochy is not going to monkey around with Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain. They are considered dual aces for the Giants.
Jonathan Sanchez, although sometimes frustrating to watch due to periodic bouts of wildness and a loss of focus, is still a much better pitcher than Zito. His ERA is 3.47 and he has given up only 60 hits in 80.1 innings. Sanchez has allowed far too many walks with 50, but has also struck out 83.
Madison Bumgarner has a 2-8 record, but that belies the way he has pitched. The Giants have provided him with virtually no run support and Bumgarner's ERA is a very solid 3.23. With decent run support, Bumgarner could have easily won six or seven games.
The emergence of Ryan Vogelsong as a reliable pitcher has given the Giants a huge boost. The 33-year-old journeyman has arguably been the Giants' best pitcher, since he was inserted into the rotation. He has a 4-1 record and an ERA of 1.81.
These five pitchers give the Giants the top rotation in baseball. I simply cannot see them putting Zito in there at the expense of someone else.
4) Go to a Six Man Rotation
One option to consider is moving to a six man rotation. This would enable the Giants to insert Zito back in and eliminate the need to demote one of the existing five. Each pitcher would get an extra day of rest, also.
On the surface, that seems logical, however a starting pitcher becomes conditioned to working every fifth day. Sometimes that floats to a sixth day when there are off days thrown in.
This routine is extremely important for a pitcher to stay sharp. We have frequently seen pitchers lose command of their mechanics when given too long between starts.
The other issue is would you rather have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain pitch every five days or every six days?
Although manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean have tossed this idea around, it does not appear they will go with it. It's a mistake to mess with something that works and the Giants' starting rotation is a huge strength of the team right now.
3) Carry 13 Pitchers
The Giants could solve this dilemma by carrying 13 pitchers. On the surface, this would fix everything, however that would mean that the bench would only be comprised of 4 reserves for every ball game.
Manager Bruce Bochy uses his entire bench quite effectively. To carry only four reserves, with one being the backup catcher really only leaves Bochy with three extra players to serve as pinch hitters, defensive replacements and to use in double switch situations.
A move to carry 13 pitchers would handcuff the Giants manager and this is not a good idea. Bochy needs the flexibility to effectively manage the game and without the extra position player, we would end up seeing pitchers like Ryan Vogelsong and Madision Bumgarner pinch hitting quite frequently.
The Giants mostly play close, low scoring games, where managerial moves and execution can mean the difference between winning and losing. To disallow Bochy from having the bench strength to make the moves he wants in a game is a recipe for losing.
I seriously doubt the Giants will go in this direction.
2) Trade Another Starting Pitcher
The Giants could decide to trade one of their starting pitchers for a much needed bat. Jonathan Sanchez could be that pitcher.
The Giants are not going to trade Lincecum or Cain and are very unlikely to move Bumgarner, who is only 21 years old. That leaves Vogelsong and Sanchez.
Vogelsong has been outstanding for the Giants this year, but at age 33, his market value is limited.
Jonathan Sanchez becomes the only remaining viable option. Sanchez currently earns $4.8 million and is arbitration eligible in 2012. He will undoubtedly command a much higher salary next year and then he becomes a free agent in 2013.
The Giants will need to pay Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain big dollars also. To have big contracts with them and Zito's albatross of a contract, mean that something has to give. That could mean Jonathan Sanchez becomes expendable.
He would bring the Giants a much needed hitter. However, for a team built on their pitching, is this a wise move?
The answer to that question is twofold. The hitter they get in return for Sanchez must be signed for more than just the remainder of this season. Secondly, the Giants must be confident that Zito will be good enough to replace Sanchez with minimal drop off.
If the answers to those two issues are positive, then we could see Sanchez traded.
I would not like to see this happen because I simply don't trust Barry Zito to be a winning pitcher for the Giants. His career record in San Francisco is 40-58 with an ERA of 4.48. Prior to his injury, Zito carried a 6.23 ERA in his three starts this year.
Trading Sanchez for a hitter is a viable option and one that we very well might see.
1) Demote Another Relief Pitcher
The final option the Giants have is to demote one of their current relievers and bring Barry Zito back in the bullpen. This would enable them to stay with 12 pitchers and keep five reserves off the bench for every game.
The concern here is that Zito has never been a reliever and how effective would he be. He is a very routine oriented pitcher and typically takes a long time to get himself warmed up. His pattern also is that his most vulnerable inning is usually his first.
The Giants bullpen is perhaps the teams greatest asset. Every pitcher has a role and they all do it very well. An effective bullpen is like a finely tuned machine. If the Giants demote one of their current relievers, it would upset the great balance they currently have.
The two players who would be under consideration are Guillermo Mota and Santiago Casilla. However, they both have a lot of value and have thrown the ball effectively. Mota serves as the long man and Casilla is next in line.
Bruce Bochy also trusts them to come in under tight conditions or when the Giants need someone to hold the opposition and give the offense a chance to rally. It is this effectiveness that has enabled the Giants to come from behind and win so many games in the eighth or ninth inning.
Although I would hate to upset this delicate balance, if the Giants do not trade Sanchez, I believe this option is what they will choose. In this case, I believe it will be Mota who is jettisoned, even though he is extremely valuable to the Giants.
There Is No Easy Solution
As you can see from reading this, there is no easy solution to this situation. The Giants are allowed to keep Zito in the minors for 30 days on a rehab assignment.
He has pitched well in his first two rehab starts, but that's against single A hitters, not major league talent. Zito has thrown strikes only walking three in 13.2 innings of work in San Jose.
However, again, this is against single A hitters. When Zito pitches against big league hitters, he often nibbles, afraid to attack the batter. This frequently results in him pitching from behind in the count and walking too many. Zito simply does not have the stuff or the velocity to pitch from behind.
The Giants have a day-night double header coming up in Chicago on June 28. At this point, they will need an extra starter. They will most likely wait until then to make any move with Zito.
No matter what the Giants do with Zito, there is a risk, because you weaken another area. What the Giants decide will likely affect how far they go this season.
Given the options available, what would you do?