No Zito Under the Tree

Maybe Omar Minaya was on Santa’s “naughty” list, because it doesn’t look like there will be a signed contract from Barry Zito waiting under the Mets’ tree come Christmas morning.

In fact, it doesn’t look like Zito will be under anyone’s tree … unless, perhaps, they are celebrating Russian Christmas. Even then, the outlook looks bleak.

That’s because agent Scott Boras needs more time to spin, spread rumors, and dream up unsubstantiated contract offers from mysterious teams. Right now, all he has is a supposed $100M offer from the Rangers — that Texas denies — and paper thin theory that the San Francisco Giants are interested in his client.

The Mets, meanwhile, are calling the superagent’s bluff, holding still on a very fair, 5-year, $73M offer.

Boras says he wants six or seven years, and over $100M. Omar Minaya knows insanity when he hears it, and has basically told Boras to go ahead and find that deal somewhere else. And why not? The Mets’ offer is Roy Oswalt money, and Oswalt is one of the top five or six pitchers in baseball. Zito is maybe in the top 20.

It will be interesting to see where Boras intends to find a team willing to pony up more than the nearly $15M per year that the Mets are willing pay. The Rangers are a possibility, and in fact have supposedly made a very similar offer, but it’s doubtful they will go much further. Since Barry Zito is fully aware that Ameriquest Field is where pitchers go to die, and the Rangers a team that have yet to make a World Series appearance, it’s hard to imagine him signing there.

The comic relief involving the SF Giants is pure spin and posturing created by the Boras compound. First, the Giants — with our without Bonds deferring cash — do not have the resources to go beyond a 5-year, $75M offer. They MIGHT match it, but probably not. Boras is spinning the idea that Zito would be very comfortable staying in the Bay Area, and that San Francisco has the same opportunities New York offers in regard to his musical hobby. Yeah, right. Nice try, Scott. San Francisco is where the crooners left their hearts, so they could go to New York and prove they could make it anywhere. (Don’t get me wrong; SanFran is a beautiful, wonderful city — but it ain’t New York.) Please look me straight in the eye and tell me that a musician/athlete has equal opportunities in both SF and NY. That’s like saying an actor has as much chance to make it big by acting in Hollywood, Florida as he does in Hollywood, CA.

Most recently, Boras has instigated the Seattle Mariners, and again — are we really to believe that the Ms will cough up more than 5/75? No doubt we’ll hear more spewing from the Boras camp, such as what a wonderfully cultural town Seattle is, and how Safeco is a pitcher’s park that tends to favor lefthanded pitchers. Hmm … sure does sound like another direct comparison to artsy NYC / pitcher-friendly Shea.

It’s interesting to note that all of these West Coast teams are suddenly in the mix — jot this strategy down if you are interested in becoming a sports agent some day. The West Coast is Zito’s home, and Boras’ home base, and thus offers a double-whammy in negotiation strength. First, there’s the spin of Zito wanting to stay home, and secondly, there’s Boras working from HIS place — a position of strength. Open up any book on sales or negotiation and you’ll see that dealing in your home base gives you an immediate advantage.

Luckily, Omar has read all the books, and experienced all the tactics in his many years in the business. He’ll likely stick to his guns and wait it out. There’s no point in extending the Mets’ bid — at least not in dollars — as there really isn’t anyone who can go much higher. In the end, the decision will be up to Barry Zito, and where he really wants to go.

So, Mr. Zito, if the financial offers were identical, which team would you choose? It’s a question you should seriously ponder, as it’s likely to become reality.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude January 9, 2009 at 12:13 pm
    Looking back, you gotta be happy that Santa left only coal and no Zito under Omar’s tree in 2006. It also goes to show you that sometimes it’s best NOT to blow away a “sure thing” free agent with mega-contracts, and to stick to your guns with an initial offer that is more realistic and fiscally responsible. Perhaps something to keep in mind when thinking about the type of contracts Lowe, Manny, Ollie, Dunn, etc are looking for this winter.
  2. joe January 9, 2009 at 1:53 pm
    True enough.

    However, at the time, the money that Boras was demanding — and eventually got from SF — was far and away insane for a pitcher of Zito’s caliber. Most were in agreement that Zito had already begun regressing and was not considered a #1 / ace type of pitcher. The 5/73 offer by the Mets was — as stated here — very fair at the time.

    In comparison, Derek Lowe’s original demand — 5 years/ $90M — was equally outrageous. BUT, mostly because of the years involved, rather than the per-year salary. A 3-year / $45-50M is about right for a pitcher like Lowe, particularly if a 4th year incentive-based option is added. It may sound rather high, but consider the kind of money paid out to schlubs like Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis, and Carlos Silva, or the high per-year salaries given to similar pitchers such as Andy Pettitte. When you look at what lesser pitchers are making, the 3/36 figures thrown around by the Mets sound awfully low, even in a depressed market, because there aren’t many pitchers left who can give you 200+ IP AND are proven postseason commodities.