Pulling the trigger on Zito

In 2005, Gwen Knapp proposed that the A’s trade Barry Zito, he of the Cy Young award and two All Star appearances to date, to the Giants for the territorial rights to Santa Clara County. I had remarked that the concept wasn’t that far-fetched, though readers noted that Knapp was probably was writing with tongue placed firmly in cheek. Now there’s talk that the Giants may waive Zito outright, with two years and $46 million ($7 million buyout in 2014) remaining on his contract.

With the Giants not budging on territorial rights, $19-20 million for each of the next two years is a lot to waste with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain accruing service time in the process, and Brandon Belt looking not ready for prime time. The team is raking in the dough, for sure, but with the mortgage on AT&T Park they aren’t exactly up in the revenue stratosphere with the Red Sox and Yankees. That means that they’ll need every bit of that $19-20 million if they want to sign a Prince Fielder-type, who have (post-Bonds) been reluctant to play out their careers at hitter-unfriendly China Basin. Even for the Giants, windows of contention are finite, though longer than for, say, the A’s.

The A’s will have a largish revenue sharing check coming this offseason, and they usually have the ability to absorb additional salary up to a $75 million payroll, based on their annual revenue. They could conceivably take Zito in a trade for scraps (ex.: Josh Outman), which would limit payroll flexibility for the A’s while increasing it for the Giants. A trade by the waiver deadline would go through uninterrupted since no other GM is going to touch Zito’s contract with a ten-foot pole. The Giants would not throw in any cash, making Zito’s total value around $49 million including his prorated remaining salary for 2011 (assuming Zito comes off the DL in time for a trade/physical).

Should a San Jose ballpark open in 2015, the Giants’ claim of damages related to the move amounts to $60 million to cover the final three years of debt service on AT&T Park (2015-17). $49 million is clearly short of $60 million, but there’s also a matter of opportunity cost as well. How much is that extra $19-20 million for 2012-13 worth to the Giants? In a way it’s worth twice as much since the money would be freed up to get another player that they wouldn’t be able to get if they were hamstrung by Zito’s contract.

From a business of baseball standpoint, it would also be the cleanest way to resolve the T-rights debate since it wouldn’t require any action by Bud Selig other than the approval of the trade by the league office and then the procedural vote during the winter meetings. It would be a clean, above-board deal, done conveniently to coincide with rewritten definitions of T-rights in the next ML Constitution (however they’re written). There’d be no need to redirect the A’s revenue sharing check or other financial gymnastics. Politically, it would fit Selig’s M.O. of waiting around until a solution presented itself. And while the A’s payroll flexibility would be less, at least they’d be getting back a fan favorite during a rebuilding era.

Brian Sabean got a taste of glory last November, along with a hefty contract extension. It might be difficult to convince Bill Neukom to go along with the idea, but Neukom’s also taking a chance on not getting anything at all when the time comes. Competitiveness now over anticompetitive business practices? I wouldn’t put it past Neukom to go with the latter. I’d like to think that, in the end, he’s a sensible man. Strange how the tables have turned, eh?

61 thoughts on “Pulling the trigger on Zito

  1. I wonder what effect this would have on Zito. It’s no secret that he’s kind of a head-case, and the pressure of not performing anything close to his contract has to be an immense pressure. Coming back to Oakland would be a separation from the contract-originator, and a resetting of expectations. Perhaps he could return to respectable (if not ace) levels.

  2. I like it. especially if it gives us SJ.

  3. I just can’t see the Giants ever giving any leeway in terms of t-rights. If it happens I think it’ll either be a scenario where MLB forces the issue and the Giants get little/nothing or the Giants give up the rights only after obtaining a sweet deal that ensures a stream of revenue from the A’s for an allotted time. The Giants are in such a smug and lordly mindset, I just don’t think any compromise would happen which doesn’t involve the A’s getting fleeced.

  4. When the Giant’s way overbid for Zito back in 2007 (when no one else even came close to those terms), I was rather stunned. I’ve always liked the guy, but knew it was a huge risk to sign that long term for that kind of money and the guy’s numbers have flattened out to that point. Now it looks like one of the worst baseball contracts ever. Yes, he’s a fan fave for the A’s, but he’s ineffective as a pitcher and would just add more losses to our record. To get him at this stage of his career and also lose out to San Jose for the ballpark would be the ultimate kick in the teeth for myself and the pro-Oakland crowd. I say No Deal, and am still holding out hope that Oakland gets a fair shot or LW gives up and the team is sold locally.

  5. Very, very interesting.

    Absorbing the Zito contract for the purpose of freeing up the Giants payroll, and in return the A’s get the go ahead on SJ. Neukom could still keep playing hardball (in fact, I’d be surprised if he didn’t), but then he’d be taking a big risk, if Selig rules in favor of the A’s in SJ, and then the Giants get nothing.

    This is the sort of thing that could make everyone happy – The A’s get SJ. The Giants get rid of huge contract, and can spend on other free agent immediately, and Selig gets a solution without having to do anything or create controversy (just like how he likes it).

    In fact, I could see Selig encouraging/cajolling/pushing both the Giants and A’s towards this.

    As an A’s fan, Zito’s big contract, his under performing, and less payroll flexibility, would all be totally worth it for getting the green light on SJ/Diridon. Heck, Zito can still be good now and then.

    If the Giants/Sabean/Neukom are willing, if I’m Wolff/Beane, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

  6. Well, I don’t really see the point. Zito would not be an improvement in the A’s rotation over anyone. Come the offseason, when prospects have to be moved onto the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, do you risk losing any of those guys to hold onto Zito? I don’t think so. The end result is, either the Giants release him or the A’s release him. Or maybe he gets traded elsewhere, but even if you did, you’d still have to eat the entire salary regardless. So why not just have the A’s pay the Giants the money, and keep Zito out of it?

  7. @Marine Layer

    Is there anything to this, or just pure speculation / wishful thinking on your part?

    Either way, I like it a lot! ;-)

  8. It sounds very creative and possible, until you consider that it would have to go to Selig for approval. Just 872+ short days later, he and his blue ribbon committee on trades-for-territorial rights might give an answer. Unfortunately, that puts us into the buy-out year killing the benefit to the Giants.

  9. @Dude

    But it would be in exchange for the opening the T-rights, and both teams would benefit right now, and it wouldn’t involve Selig/MLB making any decision. It would just be a mutual agreement between the Giants and A’s.

  10. @Ken Arneson – It doesn’t matter if the A’s keep Zito, as long as the Giants aren’t on the hook for his salary. Roster protection is part of the calculus in the end. Though I suppose there’s also a little sentimental value to it. Remember that when Ellis was traded so was the last player from the Moneyball era. With the movie coming out, at least having Zito would revive those memories, even if he (like the team) is a shell of his former self.

    @jeff-athletic – It’s just me thinking out loud. It’s not exactly original, however, I remember seeing a semi-joking tweet from CSN’s Paul Gutierrez a while back.

    @Dude – I doubt that the territorial rights would actually be written into the trade. It would be “Zito for Outman and future considerations” or something like that. The actual value of T-rights is difficult to assess, and I suspect that no owner actually wants them codified. The T-rights change would be handled at the Constitutional level.

  11. Interesting thought RM. OT: for the record, Oakland has had a “fair shot” for nearly 16 years. (just saying)

  12. I can’t see the Giant’s going for it. TR’s for them are worth more than eating Zito’s contract. LW would love it because he gets his SJ park, his big dream since at least 1998, and really wouldn’t mind 3 more losing seasons to get it..

  13. Interesting – White Elephant Parade has folded his tent. It must be due to my naming him.

  14. Watching Zito explain his recent injury to the press was some kind of awkward. If he wasn’t rich beyond my wildest dreams I’d probably feel sorry for him.

  15. @tonyD-you’ve had two ownership groups who have taken very little interest in staying (just saying).

  16. @Marine Layer: My point is, if Zito doesn’t help the A’s roster, what does it matter if the A’s take a $49M obligation off the Giants hands, or if the A’s pay the Giants $49M in cash? Either way, the Giants are off the hook. Seems like the latter would be a less complicated solution, especially if the Giants start extorting the A’s…”We won’t do Zito + San Jose for Outman…we want Cahill AND Gonzalez instead. Oh, and that Weeks kid, too.” Ugh.

  17. @Ken Arneson – It cuts both ways. Everyone knows that the there are no takers for Zito other than perhaps the A’s. It’s either A’s or Giants eating salary. No one else is doing the Giants any favors. That might provide the impetus for them to move, and provides both the A’s and Selig some leverage. But even the situation you outlined would be an improvement, at least from Lew Wolff’s standpoint – not that I agree with selling the farm for T-rights.

  18. @ML – Damn dawg: Philip Tattaglia, Moe Greene and Michael Bond all taken out. You don’t play around!

  19. @David – Not happy about it. But frankly, the guy was an anonymous coward flinging poo.

  20. I agree with Ken. Rather than trading for Zito, just pay the Giants the $50M for the TR. Why deal with the problem of what to do with him should he underperform. Why make Beane the bad guy for having to release him? Make the Giants do the dirty work, for having signed him to that horrendous contract.

  21. @fc/Ken Arneson – Because by separating the player deal and the T-rights deal by months and process, the owners can deny (wink, nudge) that there’s an actual value associated with T-rights. They’re just as afraid of that – especially the big markets – as anything else.

  22. @ML-jee, thanks a lot bro. I enjoyed WEP. Pro-SJers like yourself may call it flinging poo, I call it exposing the truth. Well, we still got Baseball Oakland, and most of us know who runs that (it’s listed on their site) and they’re not shutting down shop anytime soon. WEP and BO are similar sites, and BO will take up the slack.

  23. @Ken Well, if it worked, it would be that the A’s paid Zito’s crap contract to get SJ and that was it. This would be as opposed to Neukom milking this T-Rights things for everything it’s worth and then some. Plus, let’s be honest here – aside from Gray and that Straily guy, who would we really be upset about if we lost them to Rule 5? Krol? Graham Godfrey? Come on.

  24. @jk-usa – I didn’t ask or force him to kill his blog. He did it on his own. I asked him to man up, instead he shuts down. He actually had to gaul to claim that he was no different than you guys (commenters) posting anonymously here. There’s a huge difference. When you load up the front page of this site you see my words, not the comments. I’m accountable. He felt like he didn’t need to be accountable. Which led to today. End of story.

  25. TR’s are worth at least 200 mill in the Giant’s eyes. Dumping Zito on the A’s is small potatoes compared to that. Not gonna happen, but it makes interesting conversation on here.

  26. @jk-usa – The thrust of the Giants’ (and shills like Dennis Herrera’s) argument is that changing T-rights jeopardizes their ability to service AT&T Park’s debt. That automatically pigeonholes them into those terms, and creates an end date to their argument. That’s their problem, not the A’s.

  27. jk said to ML: “Pro-SJers like yourself ”
    .
    Quite honestly, this shows how ignorant you are. I don’t believe ML has ever said he was a Pro-SJ guy. He’s “Pro-Bay Area and getting it done in a fiscally responsible manner” guy. He presents facts and analyzes them.
    .
    Since everyone has more information on how a SJ stadium is planned, it definitely makes it easier to figure out how things would or could go down. Oakland? Not so much information, which leads to doubts and questions. If that makes the blog seem biased toward SJ, so be it. You know what you need to do to change that: pressure Oakland for more information.

  28. Barry Zito: A World Series champion, yet he never pitched in a World Series. His highest level game remains the ALCS in 2006.

  29. @ LS – right on….in pro-Oaklanders eyes, anyone that doesn’t slam LW or enthusiastically endorse the history and heritage of Oakland is a pro-SJer…/rolleyes.
    @ ML – For some reason, i have feeling the Pirates or Royals are going to swing a deal for Zito and get Sabean and the Gnats off the hook on the remaining balance. But if somehow if there was an ounce of truth to this speculation about Zito for the T.R., i say get it done…yesterday! :)

    • @Anon – A trade of Zito to anywhere else will require the Giants to eat perhaps half of the remaining contract or more. It’s not like anyone can make an insurance claim because of Zito’s sucking.
      I’ve written in the past that Selig – or rather, his successor – could wait the Giants out. Which means that Wolff’s successor would be the beneficiary.

  30. Ya know, why should the A’s owe anything to the Giants for the T rights?

    1. The Giants never paid for it in the first place.

    2. The Haas family originally gave it to them contingent on building a ballpark in Santa Clara, which never happened.

    The way I see it, the Giants have no T rights.

    Other factors:

    If Bay Area T rights are enforced, the current arrangement is ridiculous. The Giants have 6 counties, and the A’s have 2. That alone is unacceptable. If two teams are kept there, and the territorial rights are divided, it has to be divided evenly.

    No other two team market has divided T rights. It all shared between the two teams.

    MLB simply cannot keep a franchise as badly crippled as the A’s are. Frankly, it’s better to contract them (which is horrible unto itself).

    • Ya know, why should the A’s owe anything to the Giants for the T rights?1. The Giants never paid for it in the first place.2. The Haas family originally gave it to them contingent on building a ballpark in Santa Clara, which never happened.The way I see it, the Giants have no T rights.Other factors:If Bay Area T rights are enforced, the current arrangement is ridiculous. The Giants have 6 counties, and the A’s have 2. That alone is unacceptable. If two teams are kept there, and the territorial rights are divided, it has to be divided evenly. No other two team market has divided T rights. It all shared between the two teams.MLB simply cannot keep a franchise as badly crippled as the A’s are. Frankly, it’s better to contract them (which is horrible unto itself).

      Can I get an amen!!

  31. The Giants T-Rights worth $200 million? WTF?! Any proof of this? (I ask that sarcasticaly, because there isn’t any). Beyond Zito, this T-Rights argument is getting a little out of hand. I tend to believe it will be quite simple: 1) San Jose/Wolff acquire all the land at Diridon and get city approval for construction (no vote), 2) Selig/MLB rules that in the best interest of baseball the A’s should be allowed to relocate to San Jose, 3) Santa Clara County is reverted back to pre-1992 status as a shared territory of the Giants and A’s; brought in line with current two-team markets and 4) Giants are (perhaps) given revenue gaurantees through 2017 along with a gauranteed franchise value ($600 million+ ?). All future relocations would be dealt with on a case by case basis with no precedence whatsoever stemming from Bay Area situation.

  32. @Marine Layer, OK, I can buy that argument.

  33. The Giants are not going to sell t-rights to San Jose for $47 million. If the Giants were going to sell the t-rights to San Jose it would start at $150 million cash (estimate of what remains on their ATT Park mortgage).

    I’m not sure the Giants would take credit from the A’s…$150 million for the T-rights, $500 million for a new stadium — move back NY Mets and LA Dodgers — the A’s will be at the front of the debt default line.

  34. This improbable trade Zito for T-Rights scenario is a doozy. You guys can hope for that, and I’ll hold out hope out that LW sells the A’s and buys the Dodgers.

    • One other thing to consider is this: All teams put some players on waivers after the non-waiver deadline to see if other teams would bite. If the Giants did that with Zito and the A’s claimed him, what would happen next? Would Sabean pull him back on his boss’s orders? Would Selig nudge Neukom to make something happen? Would the Giants not do this just to prevent a claim by the A’s?

      Even though the probability of such a trade isn’t great, it’s a lot more in keeping with what normally happens in baseball than things like huge lump sum payments or complicated team ownership swaps. And don’t discount the opportunity cost factor.

  35. What the hell was Sabean smoking when he put that Zito deal together? He wanted a franchise player to replace Bonds..lmao. Bonds sold a lot of tickets during the freak show years, but it didn’t really translate to wins in the long run. Many teammates couldn’t stand the guy and he ruined any kind of chemistry in the clubhouse.

  36. @ML- love the scenario and is definitely within the realm of reality for how BS operates- with Zito being on the 15 day disabled list any trade would have to be approved by the commish himself-

  37. @ML If I understand waivers correctly (and they are confusing), if the A’s claimed Zito the Giants could do nothing and the A’s would be stuck with the contract and w/o TR compensation. I know the waiving team can pull back the player, but I don’t think the team that has claimed the player can “unclaim” him. I thought the waiver trades are arranged with the understanding that the player will be pulled off waivers if a deal is not reached, not that the player will be unclaimed.

  38. @jk-usa : unnlike pro-oaklanders’ holdout for vc/980, the thought of a barry for tr swap sounds intriguing, but we all know it is far fetched and unrealistic; no is banking on this fantasy. rather, i think most of us would be very happy and content now to wait out the giants and their service debt (that is, if the world doesn’t end in 2012). If this is true, the only question then is with the A’s getting kicked out of Oakland BY OAKLAND, where will they play then? =/
    @ML : since i originally asked you about putting up the BRC date many moons ago, would you somehow be able to also add a Giants service debt countdown on there. Between the BRC, the VC EIR, and the Service Debt clock, i think those are the key factors on TR and an A’s new home (IMHO).

  39. @ ML – a quick thought on the subject of stadium financing: could MLB be making a power play in the new CBA paralleling the NFL’s new stadium credits where the players have to pitch part of the share? Something like this would explain some of the holdout on new stadium talks (just like in the Niners/Raiders case). Just a thought….

  40. @goon- not to answer for ML but I believe that when a team claims a player on waivers they have 48 hours to negotiate a deal- if no deal is struck player returns to team that waived him

  41. The waiving team has an option to make a deal. They can also do nothing and let the claiming team get the player for “free.” This is how the Yankees got stuck with Canseco a while back and, ironically, the Giants ended up with Cody Ross. They were trying to block a trade with a team with a better record and ended up with the player when the waiving team gave up the player for nothing. Not such a goon now, am I ? :)

  42. @gojohn10/GoA’s – The “do nothing” option actually could work to the A’s advantage. Remember that the A’s would not be trading directly for T-rights. They’d be “trading” to get rid of the Giants’ biggest payroll liability. I think that would go a long way towards swaying Selig and the Executive Committee, not to mention whichever owners are already on Wolff’s side. If Neukom remained obstinate, Selig could go to him and say, “Look, they did you a favor. Go with the program or I’m taking the vote anyway,” the whole best-interest-of-baseball clause. The best part is that there is no actual price for T-rights since none was negotiated, which would help the big market teams who don’t want any kind of enumeration for T-rights.

    @Anon – I’m not putting up another clock item based on something speculative like that.

  43. @ML Seems like a huge risk without some quid pro quo established prior to the claim

  44. @jk-usa: You’re gonna hold up LGO? I’ve seen several members on there hoping Wolff just dies. So classy.

  45. @gojohn10 – It’s definitely a risk, perhaps not as much as you might think. After all, it’s not actually the A’s money. And if Wolff’s M.O. is to curry favor with Selig, this would be a way to do it. I had heard months ago that Selig tried to get reps for Neukom and Wolff in a room to work it out, which failed. Now that there’s an opportunity to clear the decks for the Giants (makes them happy) and get the A’s what they want (makes them happy), it’s not that bad a gambit. Of course, the Giants would have to take the first step.

  46. @ML If the A’s pay for TR up front, whether it’s through Zito or not, they’d better have assurances that SJ can get that vote passed. Either that or do it the Tony D way and avoid the vote altogether.

  47. @ML Getting back to whether the A’s would take the gamble. I think it would come down to how much faith and knowledge Wolff has in what Selig is waiting on. He says he doesn’t know what the holdup is. Does he really not know? Is Selig waiting for some opportunity to come up where both parties (A’s and Giants) are happy, or is the reason for the delay to give Oakland one last shot? If it’s the latter then picking up Zito isn’t going to amount to a hill of beans. The Giants won’t budge on the rights and Selig won’t force their hand until Oakland fails.

  48. @gojohn10 – I think Selig is simply looking for the easiest way to resolve this. As much as the pro-SJ (and Wolff) complain about the circumstances of the Giants gaining T-rights, the fact remains that they have them so they have to be dealt with. As you said, Selig will want assurances from Wolff that SJ will be a done deal. If that means buying the land outright – which Wolff hints at – that might be the best and only way. Wolff already said that $ is not the issue with the site. We’ll see if that’s truly the case.

  49. Wouldn’t it be ironic if all this happened and the vote in San Jose failed because the voters there were afraid they’d have to watch Zito pitch!

  50. For the record MarineLayer usually sits by himself at games and is way to busy on the IPad to look up and interact with other fans. Just keeping you honest bro.

  51. @Dinosaur Jr. – And proud of it! I am always approachable, BTW.

  52. BTW Accepting Zito for Territorial Rights reeks of desperation. Keep in mind that the deadline for a November Ballot is approaching. Who knows what can happen after that…

  53. @Dinosaur Jr. – It sounds like you’re spoiling for a flame war. Not gonna work on me. No one in SJ is talking about a ballpark vote right now. Consider it a dead issue until Selig acts and Wolff either buys the land or doesn’t (which would trigger the referendum).

  54. ML what did you mean by it’s not much of a risk because it’s not the A’s money? How isn’t it?

  55. @Mike – It’s part of the annual revenue sharing receipt. They have to spend it anyway.

  56. Ok I see what you mean know. I thought you were trying to imply somehow they had no chance of being stuck with the contract if putting in a waiver claim.

  57. now not know… its late im tired.. ha

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