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How the Giants can get rid of Barry Zito

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How the Giants can get rid of Barry Zito

Posted on 28 March 2012 by Graham Womack

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll start off this post by saying I’ve been a San Francisco Giants fan since childhood. And initially when the Giants signed Barry Zito in December 2006, I was excited. It’s been a long time since then– five seasons and a 43-61 record with a 4.55 ERA, to be precise– but yes, when the Giants splurged $126 million over seven years on the former American League Cy Young winner, I figured it was the bold move they needed to be relevant again.

Boy, was I wrong, like the time I said the Giants should trade a young Tim Lincecum for then-Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios (because, hey, the Giants needed and still need offense.) If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I’m often gloriously wrong. On the following statement, though, I have little doubt: The Giants have finally reached a point where they can rid themselves of Barry Zito.

The seven years on Zito’s contract couldn’t have seemed like a bleaker eternity if Dostoevsky had included them in an ESPN-centric edition of Crime & Punishment, but San Francisco is finally nearing the light at the end of the tunnel. Just $46 million remains to be paid for Zito between $19 million due this season, $20 million in 2013, and a $7 million buyout for 2014. That’s cringe-worthy, but it’s not unmovable.

The Giants have options. They can keep trying Zito as a sometimes starter and long reliever, hoping perhaps that he’ll improve on his 1.407 WHIP or cumulative 3.8 WAR during his time in San Francisco. They can consign him to Triple-A, swallowing their mistake as the New York Yankees have done with Kei Igawa. Or they can go with their third and best option: They can move him. If the Yankees could recently pawn off A.J. Burnett, it doesn’t seem inconceivable that the Giants could do likewise with Zito.

Here are three ways the Giants could trade Barry Zito:

  1. Eat $35-40 million of the remaining dollars on Zito’s contract and send him somewhere like the Baltimore Orioles. At this point, the $46 million is a sunk cost for the Giants, and if they can recoup even a fraction of that, it’d be something. Even getting a few bucks for Zito and not having him commanding a roster spot for San Francisco is good enough for me.
  2. Use Zito as leverage for giving the Oakland Athletics territorial rights to San Jose. Fellow baseball writer Wendy Thurm tweeted this idea Monday, and while it seems too fantastical to happen, just imagine: The Giants get a good prospect, one of the A’s extra outfielders perhaps, and they rid themselves of Zito; in return, the A’s get an expedited hold of one of America’s best markets for corporate sponsorship, the Silicon Valley.
  3. The Giants take back a bad contract in return. Perhaps Zito and, say, Vernon Wells would each benefit from a change of scenery.

Honestly, if I’m Brian Sabean, I start thinking more and more in the months to come about simply giving Zito his walking papers. It worked for Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada, and even if it means the Giants may eventually be spending more having guys not play for their teams than some teams do on their entire payrolls, it’d still be worth it to me.


Graham Womack is the founder and editor of Baseball: Past and Present and can be found here every Wednesday. Follow him on Twitter @grahamdude.

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DOs and DONTs: Chicago White Sox

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DOs and DONTs: Chicago White Sox

Posted on 05 March 2012 by Jared Thatcher

At first glance there weren’t really that many players I would draft from the White Sox this year. But upon further investigation, they may have some very valuable middle to late round picks that could add depth and production to your team.

DO find solace in the many young arms in the bullpen this year. Addison Reed, Matt Thornton, and Jesse Crain should all be lock down out of the bullpen no matter what order you put them in. They probably won’t have a ton of save opportunities, but should provide innings and strikeouts.

DONT even think about drafting most of their starting rotation this year. Gavin Floyd is injury prone and doesn’t put up great numbers. Jake Peavy is an absolute mystery, even to himself. He has lost velocity and doctors say his arm is as good as it’s going to get.

DO consider drafting John Danks as your number 3-5 starting pitcher. He has had a rough couple of years but I’m confident he can pitch 200 innings this year with an ERA under 4.00. The 150 strikeouts from him will be nice also toward the back of your rotation.

DO not overlook a couple of the other young arms on the team, Philip Humber and Nestor Molina. Molina came over in a trade from the Blue Jays and is a decent prospect. Humber provided over 200 innings of 4.00 ERA ball last year while striking out 150 batters. He should once again be a workhorse in 2012.

DONT take the chance on any of their outfielders unless you are absolutely desperate. Alex Rios had a terrible year in 2011 and there is no reason why he should be any better this year. Alejandro De Aza had a nice line over 54 games in 2011 but he is unproven. Dayan Viciedo was a good prospect in his day and still has some potential, but I would stay away until he proves himself.

DO DO DO pick up Paul Konerko as at least your DH this year. He is an RBI machine and has a great batting average to go along with it. He should be the same productive player he has always been, even considering his age.

DONT draft young infielders Brent Morel or Gordon Beckham. They were touted as future superstars and have shined at times, but the shine tarnished quickly and they were revealed to be below-average players. Don’t take the chance on these two guys until they can prove they can be productive week in and week out.

DO not expect Adam Dunn to hit under .200 again. Although the batting average is never very high for Dunn (he strikes out a ton), he should regain his swing and once again hit at least 30 home runs. Let Dunn slide as far as you can in the draft but don’t be afraid to take him as your DH in 2012.

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The Roster Report – February 15, 2012

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The Roster Report – February 15, 2012

Posted on 15 February 2012 by Bryan Grosnick

Hey there, hardball fans. While no MLB players who made an impact in 2011 signed, we did find out that a big-time import will be landing on the West Coast this year. And even though there’s only one big free agent left on the market, a couple of new faces found new places to call home last week. We’ve got all the transactions broken down below, here at the Roster Report.

(Seriously guys, what are we gonna do about this Roy Oswalt thing?)

Yoenis Cespedes

The Oakland Athletics sign Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36MM contract.

What’s left to say about Yoenis Cespedes? If you haven’t heard yet, Cespedes is the hottest thing to come out of Cuba since black market cigars. As an elite athlete (he looks like a NFL running back) who also put up elite stats (20-30 HR per year…in 90 game seasons) at home in Cuba, Cespedes has rare upside. The only question is if he can translate his awesome tools to the MLB game. I actually like this deal for Oakland very much…it is the kind of high-risk, high-reward signing that teams firmly out of contention should do. If Cespedes turns out to be a 2.0 WAR center fielder over the life of this contract, I’d say that’s a fair return on investment, as current metrics usually parse out a dollar value between $4-5MM for one win. If he’s better than that projection, the Athletics have a nice, undervalued asset and you can make a Moneyball joke.

But as an Oakland Athletic in 2012, where does Yoenis fit? The big-money major-league contract would seem to indicate that the Athletics want to see an immediate return on investment, but I wouldn’t rush to judgement yet. Cespedes probably needs more than a Spring Training run to adapt to ML pitching, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start 2012 in Double-A. There he’ll get regular plate appearances, and the A’s brass will be able to evaluate his offensive and defensive talents in game situations. Keep in mind that Oakland sees every player as a trade asset, and wouldn’t want an ineffective Cespedes in the majors, looking like a “bust”.

Unless Cespedes falls apart entirely (or goes nuts and hits dozens of HR), I’m going against the grain and predicting that he’ll probably find his way to Oakland around June or so. Oakland is said to have a logjam in the outfield now…one that I covered a few days ago in this article. Me, I’m not sure that they do. Coco Crisp and Seth Smith are locks for two OF/DH positions, with Smith possibly looking for a platoon partner. Josh Reddick will likely get a long look in RF, as he proved he’s got major league chops last season. And Yoenis isn’t the only player that the A’s need to take a look at. Michael Taylor, Chris Carter, Brandon Allen, Collin Cowgill, and others all need to get ML at-bats to prove their worth. The odd man out, at least for me, is Jonny Gomes. Gomes hits right-handed (same as Cespedes), but has little upside and will only be in Oakland on a one-year deal worth $1MM. While Gomes is a known commodity, the A’s need to see what right-handed hitters Carter and Taylor can do. I doubt the A’s would lose much if they replaced Gomes with Chris Carter for 2012.

So what is Cespedes’s fantasy value? I see him as a very high-risk prospect, a la Desmond Jennings in 2011. He should offer steals and power if everything breaks right, but in a limited amount of AB. And while Cespedes could put up numbers like Jennings did last season, there’s also the possibility that he could crater and provide little or no value for your fantasy squad. Use caution when drafting him, or even just setting your expectations for his performance. In many respects, he is quite a bit like another import: Yu Darvish. Hype and gaudy stats in other leagues could make these players as good as advertised, or they could mean little compared to U.S. competition. Cespedes may be a star, just don’t expect miracles right away.

Kosuke Fukudome

The Chicago White Sox sign Kosuke Fukudome to a one-year, $1MM contract.

It’s back to Chicago for Kosuke Fukudome, who signed a one-year deal to play for the Chicago White Sox yesterday. Fukudome never quite lived up to the hype of his signing in his time in the Windy City, but he’s put up 5.6 fWAR over the last four seasons. Fukudome’s calling card has always been his stellar walk rate, but that fell precipitously from 15.4% in 2010 to 10.1% in 2011. The good news is that his performance improved after a mid-season trade to the Cleveland Indians, and he’ll find himself back in the AL Central again this year. The outfielder, who can play all three positions in a pinch, is entering his age-35 season, so one might expect his already suspect tools to diminish further as time goes on.

Fukudome profiles as the fourth outfielder in Chicago, likely behind Alex Rios, Alejandro De Aza, and maybe Dayan Viciedo. The White Sox don’t really have any other good internal options on the bench, though Brent Lillibridge does a decent job playing the super-sub role. Jordan Danks may be close to contributing, and if he breaks camp with the big club, De Aza (or Brent Morel) may be pushed to the bench and Fukudome moves even further down the depth chart. If Danks doesn’t break with the team, Dayan Viciedo’s fielding deficiencies may cause Fukudome to fill in as a late-inning defensive replacement, even though his defense isn’t particularly good. New manager Robin Ventura may value Fukudome’s patient approach at the plate, but if he can’t get on base, then even he could have trouble hanging around at the ML level.

From a fantasy standpoint, you’ll probably want to stay away from Kosuke. I drafted him in an OBP league and still regret it, as his declining skill at the plate makes him an unimpressive fantasy player. If he gets full-season playing time, he could muster ten homers, but he won’t get that playing time and you’re better off investing in a higher-upside player.

In all honesty, I’m a little surprised the White Sox committed guaranteed money (and a club option for 2013) to Fukudome. He more fits the role of a minor-league contract guy. If Jordan Danks and Dayan Viciedo play as well as expected in 2012, chances are the White Sox will wish they had the money back…but fora million dollars, the team also could have done worse than Fukudome. He’s a fourth or fifth outfielder who won’t kill you, but he won’t provide the pop off the bench that many managers like in a pinch-hitting outfielder.

Luis Ayala

The Baltimore Orioles sign Luis Ayala to a one-year, $925K contract.

Believe it or not, this was the only other “big” signing since our previous edition of the Roster Report. Luis Ayala, coming off a fairly effective 2011, received a low-ball, but guaranteed contract offer. Those aren’t just flying around these days. Ayala managed a shiny 2.09 ERA last season with the Yankees, but don’t be fooled! That ERA belies a 4.19 FIP and 4.15 xFIP. Ayala’s just a league-average reliever who benefited from a huge 85.7% strand rate in 2011. When a reliever is about league average, and his upside is also league-average, then he can be worth a roster spot. But Ayala obviously isn’t a fantasy factor, and is hardly likely to put up shocking numbers for not-gonna-contend Baltimore. I’m not sure if Baltimore would be better served by putting a young guy with upside in their ‘pen, but these are hardly the moves that make or break a team.

Quick Hits

  • The Orioles also added OBP machine Nick Johnson on a one-year, minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Johnson is great when he’s healthy, except he’s not. Nor was he any good last year in Triple-A with the Indians. More than likely, this is the last stop in his career. And even if he does make it to the majors somehow, he’s only fantasy-relevant in OBP leagues.
  • The Cleveland Indians continue to explore starting pitching options after the fallout from the Fausto Carmona / Roberto Heredia controversy. Now they’ve added former White Sox mainstay Jon Garland on a minor-league deal. Garland has been an interesting pitcher over the course of his career: durable, reliable, but not particularly good (4.68 career FIP). Last year, he followed the same pattern, except without the “durable” and “reliable” parts. He only posted 54 innings, but otherwise his rate stats were very similar to his career norms. Garland can’t strike anyone out, so even if he stays healthy he’s unlikely to be fantasy-relevant or anything other than a #5 starter at the ML level.
  • It’s a pattern. Another player who used to be pretty good isn’t so good any more, and is now trying to catch on with a minor league deal. This time it’s Scott LInebrink, and the team in question is the St. Louis Cardinals. Linebrink used to be a pretty solid middle-relief and setup guy, but now he gives up way too many HR to be anything more than just another guy in the bullpen. Though Linebrink might’ve had a respectable ERA last season with Atlanta, he benefited from a strand rate over 80%, and his FIP and xFIP (4.30 and 4.18, respectively) tell a story of mediocrity. A minor league deal isn’t a bad flyer, but with little upside and lots of miles, chances are that we’ll only talk about Linebrink after he gives up a big HR to someone like Ryan Braun.

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