The Giants’ offseason has been busy, but were you to grade it, it’d have to be a C. By adding a Z, they can turn it into an A.
The Z in question, of course, is lefty Barry Zito, the pitching belle of this winter’s free-agent ball. And while the popular theory is that he’ll sign with the New York Mets, the Giants make a heck of a lot more sense. And Zito makes a heck of a lot of sense for the Giants.
The Mets’ theory is based on two things. One is Zito’s oft-stated desire to play in New York; he’s huge on accountability, and nowhere are you held more accountable than in the Big Apple. The other is his relationship with Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, the A’s pitching coach when Zito won the 2002 American League Cy Young award.
Yet, there are far more compelling reasons for Zito to sign with the Giants, who have been sitting back while other teams make more public pursuits of his services. That doesn’t mean they aren’t going to make a huge offer, though. They’re no dummies and they know that all the Dave Roberts/Rich Aurilia/Bengie Molina/Ryan Klesko signings in the world aren’t enough to satiate their fans’ desire — or their organization’s need — to make one cannonball splash before they head for spring training.
Securing Zito would be that splash and it’s a no-brainer for both sides.
Wanting to be held accountable is a noble concept, but the New York media takes accountability to uncomfortable extremes. Zito has worked his entire career in a market that forgives the occasional bump in the road. And in the rare cases that he was harshly criticized here, it chafed him. The New York media is brutally unforgiving, turning bumps in the road into massive mountains. Andif Zito shows even the slightest sign of struggle while working on a $100 million contract in Gotham, what should be the most enjoyable time of his life could quickly turn into the most miserable.
By staying in the Bay Area, where all of his quirks and outside interests are known and accepted, he’d assure himself of relative peace.
Also, the Giants need a leader for the young studs on their pitching staff. And Zito would be that. He thrived as a leader for
Oakland’s young staff after Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder were traded in 2004, and he likes the role.
Then there’s the Giants’ need for a face of the franchise when Mr. Bonds finally takes his leave. Zito can be that, too.
Oh, and he’s a flyball pitcher. AT&T is a huge pitchers’ park. Hello, lower ERA.
And finally, Zito makes his offseason home in the Hollywood Hills. By working in the NL West, he’d enjoy regular trips to San Diego, where he grew up, and Los Angeles. Again, built-in comfort.
So don’t assume Zito is bound for Queens. By signing with the Giants, he’d be able to live like a king.
Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com.