Thursday, July 16, 2009

Barry Zito: Worst Pitcher Contract Ever?

When the Giants signed Barry Zito in 2006, they thought they had just locked up their ace for the next seven years. The team believed that Zito had the goods to lead the Giants in the post Barry Bonds era by consistently taking the ball every fifth day and giving the Giants a quality start.

However, Zito's tenure with the Giants has been a disaster. His ERA with Giants has ballooned upwards of 5 as Zito has not come close to looking like a top flight starting pitcher. His velocity and control have deteriorated to the point where his once devastating curveball is no longer as effective as it once was. At this point, the only reason Zito is still in the starting rotation is because of his huge contract, not because of his ability.

Unfortunately, the Giants are still on the hook for another 4 years of Zito at a whopping $76 million bucks. In addition, the Giants gave Zito a full no trade clause, so for the time being, it looks like the Giants are stuck with Zito.

There is no doubt that Zito's contract is one of the worst in baseball right now. Ant Giants fan will tell you that. But can this contract become the worst contract ever handed out to a pitcher?

Perhaps. There have been many horrible contracts given out to pitchers over the years (Mike Hampton, Denny Neagle, Chan Ho Park, Darren Driefort, and Kevin Brown all come to mind), but in my opinion, Zito is in a completely different category than those four pitchers.

Unlike so many pitchers who sign big contracts, Zito has not gotten hurt during his time with the Giants. His durability remains his biggest strength (or weakness, depending on who you ask) that allows him to take the ball every fifth day. The issue at hand is that Zito's performance has declined so much, so quickly that he looks like a completely different pitcher than the one the Giants signed.

And here's the thing: the Zito contract is absolutely killing the Giants. The Giants have a fantastic pitching staff without Barry Zito and there is no doubt that right now Zito is holding the pitching staff back. In addition, if the Giants did not sign Zito, then they would have been able to use the funds to go out and acquire a few bats to shore up their pathetic offense. However, Zito's contract limits the Giants payroll flexibility and very well could hold the Giants back from seriously competing in the wide open National League this season.

And that's a shame. If the Giants make the playoffs this season or go deep into the playoffs, it will be in spite of Barry Zito, not because of him.

Barry Zito's contract has the potential to hold this franchise back from the promised land for years to come. It's not often we can say that about one player, but this contract and his performance are that bad.

I suppose that there is still time for Zito to turn it around with the Giants, but he has shown nothing over his two+ years with the Giants for me to believe that.

15 comments:

Chris said...

It's still better than V-Dub's contract. That one is going to cause the Jays to lose out on the best pitcher in baseball.

jorgesaysno said...

True. The Jays will lose out on Halladay because of Wells...but the Giants may miss out on the playoffs or deep October baseball because of Zito...

Ian H. said...

This contract might not look so bad if not for the state of the economy, but ever since the markets went down the tubes, big contracts like these stick out like a sore thumb.

And somewhere, Scott Boras is laughing histerically while wiping his ass with a $100 dollar bill.

pete said...

Zito's contract looked like the worst contract in history before he threw a pitch for the Giants. Now it looks even worse.

Anonymous said...

Mike Hampton...... is probably the only other pitcher I can think of. Hampton raped the Braves.

Anonymous said...

The Giants, so far, don't have that pathetic of an offense. It's okay, maybe bad, but not pathetic.

Dan said...

Dreifort has to be in this discussion...

E.L.M. said...

Whether Zito's contract is the worst or not, you need to do your homework. His control and velocity have actually gotten better this year. (Fangraphs has all the data.)

Despite the ugly W-L and ERA, he's doing better this year than the previous two years. It's still one of the worst contracts ever for a pitcher, but there's at least a glimmer of hope he can be a productive starter.

Anonymous said...

I'm with E.LM. Do your homework. The Giants have the 2nd most homers in the NL since June 9. Zito's got 8 quality starts, up one from this point last year, and has lost a good number of his starts giving up hard 0-2 hits. He's been looking good. He'd probably be looking better if he weren't hounded by the likes of reports like this, which I guess comes on the heels of Kawakami's.

Aaron said...

What about Carl Pavano with the Yankees?

Andrew Faris said...

The Zito contract is bad. No question about it. But the occasional effective start puts it out of the running for worst ever.

As a Dodger fan, I can assure you that we hold that record. Pavano to the Yanks doesn't count because it didn't hamstring the Yanks enough- they have so much money that they could just laugh it off.

But Dreifort's and now Jason Schmidt's have to be in there. Schmidt is really bad on all levels. The fact that it is a 3 year deal saves it a little bit, but still: 47 million dollars for 1 win (barring a comeback this season). And to add insult to injury, Coletti has admitted to knowing that Schmidt was injured in his pitching arm when he signed Schmidt.

Makes you want to go take a big Schmidt on Ned Coletti, if you ask me...

Andrew

Anonymous said...

Chan Ho Park's contract was pretty bad.

jorgesaysno said...

Say what you want about Zito, but the Giants offense outside of Sandoval and Rowand is pathetic. This team is last in the NL in OBP, 2nd to last in homers, third to last in total bases in NL, and 3rd to last in slugging percentage.

While you can make the case that the Giants offense has been better of late, but that fails to state that this offense has been bad and another hitter is desperately needed.

As for Zito, if his performance is being hounded by reports like this, than he should really stop reading this.

If you want to state that there is a glimmer of hope for Zito, please tell me where it is. The guy had one good month this season (May), so is that supposed to tell me that he is going to suddenly turn it around and become a useful starter again? You tell me.

Sreyas Krishnan said...

As bad as Barry's contract was, Mike Hampton's by the Rox was the worst in my eyes. At the time of the signing, it was the largest contract ever given to any player in sports history. What did he do? Absolutely nothing. 2003 with the Braves was his best season, but aside from that and his 7 homers in 2002, he didn't do ANYTHING to warrant his contract in a Rockies uniform, and very little in a Braves uniform.
Anyhow, if the Giants even get that far (which I hope they won't, GO ROX!) I'm betting that they use Zito as a reliever (if at all) in October and go with Lincecum, Cain and Johnson as their primary rotation.

That's some scary stuff right there; if they make the playoffs, they could go deep...

Nylund said...

One may just dismiss it as the result of an unfortunate injury, but any Giants fan will tell you they were not surprised to learn that Jason Schmidt's shoulder was toast when he signed that $47 million contract with the Dodgers.

For that $47 million they got 1 win from him 2 years ago and they're paying him what? $17 million this year?