Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Barry Zito vs. Johan Santana Going Forward

Barry Zito vs. Johan Santana Going Forward

By Mike Silva ~ August 10th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Mets.

That’s the real tragedy of Barry Zito. It’s not that he was reduced to a mathematical proof in the winter of 2006. It’s that in the summer of 2011, he has become one: Sometimes the sum of faith and belief and love still isn’t nearly enough. -Chris Jones, Grantland. 

Chris Jones piece about Barry Zito at Grantland outlines the lefty’s journey from Cy Young Award winner in Oakland to overpaid albatross in San Francisco. The burden of his free agent riches has destroyed the career of one of the more promising arms in the game. In a recent episode of “The Franchise” on Showtime, Zito talks more about his passion for cooking than pitching.

Zito has been so bad this year there are some that speculate he could be released from the remaining $50 million dollars on his deal. In just 9 starts this year he’s 3-4 with a 5.62 ERA. His last start was on July 31st in Philadelphia where he was lit up for 5 runs in 5 innings. The Giants subsequently placed him on the DL with an alleged foot injury, and it’s unknown whether we will see him again in 2011.

The Mets were one of the suitors for Zito in the offseason of 2006-2007. The Giants blew the competition out of the water with an historic 7 year/$126 million dollar deal. Just a little over a year later, the Mets acquired Johan Santana from the Twins and awarded him an even bigger contract (6 years/$138 million) that has yet to be topped since. After nearly dragging the Mets to the playoffs by himself in 2008, Santana has suffered injuries to his elbow and shoulder. The torn capsule that will likely shelve him the entire season could possibly end his career.

Let’s play fantasy General Manager for a minute. If you were Sandy Alderson or Brian Sabean, would you contemplate swapping Zito for Santana this offseason? Take a look at the remaining years and dollars left on their respective deals courtesy of Cot’s Contracts:

Zito:  12:$19M, 13:$20M, 14:$18M club option ($7M buyout)

Santana:  12:$24M, 13:$25.5M, 14:$25M club option ($5.5M buyout) 

Assuming both pitchers are bought out after 2013, Zito’s total liability is $46 million dollars, while Santana’s is $55 million. If you are the Mets do you trade Santana and pay the $9 million dollar difference for Zito? If you are the Giants do you risk taking on a sunk cost just to get rid of a headache?

From the Mets perspective you trade the better pitcher, but one that may never throw a big league inning again. Although Zito isn’t the same pitcher from his Oakland days, he still is physically able to take the mound; at least he will once he recovers from his recent “foot injury.” It’s quite possible that even a diminished Zito might provide better value for the dollar than Santana post-shoulder surgery.

The Giants would be trading for upside. If Santana is only 75% of his former self he is the better pitcher. This is a huge risk -there is a possibility he may never throw a pitch in a Giants uniform- but you are only paying the amount you would owe Zito anyway. San Francisco is so deep in young arms they could roll the dice in this scenario and not do one iota of damage to their rotation. If he’s healthy, however, you have yourself an elite pitcher in the backend of your rotation.

Can Zito be saved? Perhaps bringing back his old pitching coach from Oakland, Rick Peterson, might make it a possible. At least we know Zito will take the mound in 2012. In Santana’s case that is still very much in question.

Both pitchers have full no-trade clauses so its unlikely this scenario would ever happen. They also have vesting options that make 2014 guaranteed, which are possible, but not likely due to health and performance.

In the end, if such a deal could be worked out, neither team is paying more than what they currently are liable for in this type of deal. It might be a chance both can take for their piece of mind, as well as give both hurlers a chance for a fresh start.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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1 Response to Barry Zito vs. Johan Santana Going Forward

  1. Russ Cress

    Speaking of starting pitching, is it time to ask if Ivan Nova is actually the #2 starter now?

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