Two years ago during the Giants’ championship run Barry Zito wasn’t even on the playoff roster, but now he’s starting Game 5 of the NLCS tonight with their season on the line.
The good news is that the Giants have won 12 straight Zito starts dating back to August 7.
The bad news is that win streak included Zito failing to make it out of the third inning against the Reds in the NLDS and his overall ERA in those 12 starts is 4.04. In other words, he hasn’t exactly been the driving force behind the dozen consecutive victories.
It will be Zito’s ninth career playoff start, but he hasn’t thrown more than four innings in a postseason outing since the ALDS in 2006, when he tossed eight innings of one-run ball versus Minnesota. To get a sense of how long ago that was, Frank Thomas was the A’s cleanup hitter and Johan Santana started for the Twins.
If the Giants can win tonight they’ll have Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain lined up for Games 6 and 7, but first they’ll need Zito to earn a big chunk of his much-maligned $127 million contract.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that the San Francisco Giants “have keen interest” in Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.
Longoria is coming off his worst season as a major leaguer, having hit .261/.313/.424 with 20 homers in 2017. He’s also still owed $86 million through 2022. Which, back when the deal was signed seemed like quite a bargain for the Rays — and likely has been over the duration of the contract — but now seems somewhat steep for the 32 year-old third baseman. That said, the Giants currently have Pablo Sandoval penciled in at third base on their depth chart, so Longoria would definitely be an upgrade, even if 2017’s dip wasn’t just a blip.
Nightengale says that for the Giants to take on Longoria, the Rays would have to take on a high salary veteran such as Denard Span or Hunter Pence. Span is owed $9 million in 2018, with a $4 million buyout on a $12 million option for 2019. Pence is owed $18.5 million in 2018 in the final year of his contract and has a full no-trade clause.
If he stays with the Rays, Longoria will achieve 10-5 rights — full no-trade protection due to being a ten-year veteran with five years of service on the same club — so if the Rays are going to move him, it’ll be much easier this offseason, not once the 2018 season begins.