Brian Sabean has no plans to trade Barry Zito … because he can’t

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Despite making $18.5 million this season as part of a seven-year, $126 million contract Barry Zito was left off the Giants’ playoff roster for all three rounds, but general manager Brian Sabean said yesterday that he has no plans to trade Zito this offseason.

You know why? Because he can’t. In related news, I have no plans to date Mila Kunis.

Zito is still owed $18.5 million in 2011, $19 million in 2012, and $20 million in 2013, with an $18 million option or $7 million buyout in 2014. Which team is willing to assume what’s essentially a three-year, $64.5 million contract for a 33-year-old pitcher who went 1-10 with a 5.19 ERA in his final 15 starts?

Feel free to take your time thinking of answer. There isn’t one.

Of course, Sabean did his best to spin the situation:

We like Barry’s contribution as far as the innings he pitches and the starts he makes. Part of Barry’s problem is that we haven’t been able to score for him.

“As fas the innings he pitches and the starts he makes” is sort of an amazing way to put it, because it completely leaves out the run-prevention aspect of Zito’s job and basically just means “well, at least he hasn’t gotten hurt.” Zito is 40-57 with a 4.45 ERA through four seasons in San Francisco, but he has averaged 33 starts and 192 innings per year.

Make no mistake, though: Sabean would gladly trade Zito if he could. And he’d be willing to eat quite of a bit of that remaining $64.5 million contract to do so. But even if the Giants were to toss in, say, $30 million along with Zito in a trade, are there any teams out there interested in paying him $34.5 million over the next three years? Probably not, so they’ll keep paying $19 million for a good fifth starter and I’ll avoid giving Mila a call.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Associated Press
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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.