For years Barry Zito’s big contract has been the primary reason for his remaining in San Francisco’s rotation, but with just six weeks to go until he can be cut loose the Giants sound ready to end the relationship early.
Zito lasted just 3.2 innings against the Red Sox yesterday and afterward manager Bruce Bochy hinted at changes in the rotation, telling Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com: “I don’t want to go into the choices, but I’ll talk to the staff before we talk about that.”
Baggarly notes that the Giants “do not lightly discard players who have set a good example and gone about their business the right way.” In other words, Zito might be hurting the team and might have zero chance of playing for the Giants beyond this season, but he’s been a nice guy on good teams. He’s also been paid $120 million and will get a $7 million buyout of his 2014 option.
Zito’s next scheduled start is Monday at Coors Field, which would seem almost cruel at this point. He has a 5.63 ERA in 120 innings overall and is 0-8 with a 9.50 ERA on the road, including 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts at Coors Field.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.