Zito (Boras) Speaks

For the first time this offseason, Barry Zito has spoken at length regarding his present and future.

The article opens with mention of Zito’s hardworking offseason, and the fact that he’s already trimmed his body fat percentage “by 4.5 percent”. There are several direct quotes from Zito, specifically addressing his publicly perceived value — which he more than hints at being lower than it should be. The most telling quote:

“Everyone wants to talk about how I’m not a No. 1 starter or how I’m getting worse, just so they can save some money,” Zito said with a laugh, in response to reports out of New York the past several months. “I’d expect all that. I wouldn’t be surprised if teams are putting this out to their media to create a collective consciousness, saying why should he get this or that? Everyone wants to buy low and sell high. But all we want is market value, and that’s been set the past six-eight weeks.

“When you look at value, what’s more valuable — keeping another $20 million in the bank when you already have hundreds of millions of dollars, or getting a player of value? But let people panic, let them talk about me, say I suck. We’ll see where the chips land.”

OK Barry, let’s get something straight: $100M over 6 or 7 years is NOT the market, and NOT what you’re worth. Roy Oswalt is a better pitcher than you (or rather, he sucks less than you do), and he does not have that kind of contract. On the open market, he MIGHT. But you’re not as valuable as he is.

Zito does a very good job of sounding like the good guy, the guy whose reputation is getting bashed, when all he wants to do is get what’s coming to him. A real nice ploy, until you step back and take a look at who this person is, and what he is saying.


Yet that’s not enough, if you listen to him.

I want just one bank clerk, account executive, plumber, computer professional, or other “regular guy” to think about the opportunity to make $15M a year to play baseball, then re-read Zito’s sob story.

There’s more in the article about how he’s working so darn hard to get into great shape, how he wants nothing more than to win a World Series championship, blah blah blah. This is all designed to make us feel like he is “the real deal”, or a “great competitor”, or “really dedicated”.

Let’s get serious, folks. If YOUR JOB is to play a professional sport, and you are being paid TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to do so, you damn well better be working your ass off in the offseason, with the goal of winning a championship. From the article you would think that Barry Zito is the hardest working man in baseball, and the only pitcher with the desire and fire to win a World Series.

Yes, he works hard. Yes, he’s competitive. Yes, he wants to win a World Series. Those qualities are the reason he is one of only 750 people in the world who play Major League Baseball. To stay among that elite group, you must work hard, you must be competitive — because there are another 20 million people trying to take your job.

Look, I think Barry Zito is a fine pitcher. At one time he was an excellent pitcher. But I also think he’s on a downslide, and a contract in the 5-year, $75M range is more than fair for a guy who has probably seen his best years, and who probably will be a 15-17-win, #2-type starter. If he were coming off his three best years, and not his three worst years, it would be a different story. If he wanted to get a $100M contract, he should have thought about his body fat percentage this time LAST year.

Maybe I’m a pessimist, or a conspiracy theorist, but I’m convinced this SF Gate article is purely contrived by the Scott Boras camp. Every sentence carefully spun to project Zito as any team’s ultimate addition, and well worth the $100M asking price. The timing of the article was impeccable. Why today? Why not last week, before Zito met with five teams? Why not next week? And at least one of the quotes — the Sandy Koufax reference — was intended to hit the Mets and their fans directly.

Also note the Boras-sounding tidbits sprinkled throughout the story, such as ” … one of baseball’s most durable pitchers — Zito has never missed a start …”. That one comes straight out of the Boras player profile folder. This is less a news article and more a negotiation ploy.

Don’t believe my theory? Consider that his eventual signing means MILLIONS of dollars to both Zito and his agent. When there is this much money at stake, do you really believe that anything that might affect negotiations would be left to chance? If so, you’ll probably be waiting for an old fat guy in a red suit to come down your chimney in a few days.

Go ahead, read the article, enjoy it, but don’t get all fired up and excited and start demanding that Omar get this deal done and pay Zito and Mr. Boras whatever they demand. Zito is still the same pitcher he was before this article: a solid, dependable #2 starter who may or may not be on the downside of his career.

And if he truly means the words he says in the article, particularly “what I’m looking for is an owner who sees eye-to-eye with me in my goal to lead a team to multiple World Series championships,” then he’d be crazy to even consider signing with a team that has never made the World Series (Rangers and Mariners), or the Giants, who are obviously built for one more year of Barry Bonds and then shifting to a rebuilding / youth movement.

Don’t believe the hype. The Mets will make a very fair offer, and it doesn’t need to be anywhere near nine digits — not when the other teams in the bidding are right around the same numbers. Make the 5/75 offer, maybe go to $80M, then “see where the chips land.”

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.