Tag: Barry Zito

Tim Lincecum

Let us not freak out about free agent salaries, OK?


I feel like people freak out a little bit every fall and winter when the first couple of free agents sign. The dollars get announced and the reaction is some form of “wow, what an overpay!” and “if [Player X] gets that, [Player Y] is going to get insane dollars!” We’ve seen a little bit of that in the wake of last night’s Tim Lincecum signing, with people’s reactions ranging from merely raising an eyebrow to being fully gobsmacked.

I’m in more of the eyebrow-raised camp. It’s probably a bit of an overpay given Lincecum’s performance over the past couple of years (though it is a pay cut). It’s also a bit of a gamble inasmuch as, a decent strikeout rate notwithstanding, there is no guarantee that Lincecum will be a front line starter ever again. Or even an average one. We’re now more than two years past the last good Lincecum season and more than four years past the truly dominant Lincecum still stuck in our head. He could be Barry Zito redux in performance, if not in contract duration, for the rest of his career.

But we should probably limit our response to the dollars involved to raised eyebrows and wait a few months before truly committing to a reaction. Both to Lincecum’s deal and the deals of other free agents this winter. Because the changing financial structure of baseball is rendering the sorts of deals we once considered to be crazy fairly run-of-the-mill these days.

Yes, $35 million for two years is an awful lot of money. But you know what else is an awful lot of money? The $30-$40 million (estimated) each team will be getting each year from new national television deals with ESPN, Fox and TBS. That is, $30-$40 million for doing absolutely nothing. That’s before you add on increases in local deals many teams are experiencing and the overall trend of rising revenues across Major League Baseball. A trend that the San Francisco Giants and their nearly-full ballpark are taking pretty decent advantage of.

We’re not in the same financial world in which we found ourselves in 1992, 2004 or even just a couple of years ago. Teams have more money to spend and, thanks to restrictions on how much amateur talent can be paid, they have fewer places to spend it. It makes perfect sense, then, that the price of an average pitcher with some upside (or any number of other free agents who will soon sign) will be a lot higher than it used to be. As such, the dollars that used to only go to the best of the best will now be going to the middle of the pack. The superstar dollars will go way, way up too.

Despite this dynamic, I feel that fan and, in some cases, media reaction to these understandable increases is still stuck in 1992, 2004 or even just a couple of years ago. It sort of reminds me of my dad who, whenever gas prices go up, reacts as if it were still 1959 and, dadgummit, gas shouldn’t be more than twenty-five cents a gallon. As if the price of any commodity, be it gas, foodstuffs or elite baseball players shouldn’t be expected to rise in the face of scarcity and increased demand.

Anyway: it’s possible that the Lincecum deal will look bad in a few months or a year from now. It’s also possible that this deal is simply what a player of Lincecum’s caliber — adjusting for the short-length of the deal and his status as a fan favorite — can be expected to command. Whatever happens with him, though, we need to remember that player salaries are going up for rational reasons and that the definition of a massive deal in 2013-14 is not the same as it was even a few short years ago.

Barry Zito buys a full-page ad to thank Giants fans

Barry Zito Getty

Barry Zito’s time in San Francisco is almost certainly over. His seven years with the Giant did coincide with much organizational success but, obviously, Zito experienced more personal downs than ups in the orange and black.

But to the extent Zito struggled in San Francisco, he never felt abandoned by fans. Or of he did he’s being a big guy about it and putting it behind him. He showed that by taking out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle to thank Giants fans:


Seems like a pretty darn decent guy. Not just for the ad, of course. For all of the trouble he had on the field, you rarely if ever heard him say anything negative or, for that matter, people say anything negative about him personally. Sometimes guys don’t do as well as you hoped they do. Often when that happens, the relationship between the player and his team (and the fans) ends ugly.

Not with Zito. Not with the Giants. Not with Giants fans.

Giants overcommit to Hunter Pence

Hunter Pence

Now that he’s out from under the Barry Zito (seven years, $126 million) and Aaron Rowand (five years, $60 million) contracts, Giants GM Brian Sabean has the financial muscle to swing for the fences again. And the result: a five-year, $90 million contract for Hunter Pence.

For Pence, is a windfall that certainly exceeds any expectations he could have had coming into his final season before free agency. Fortunately, he’s turned in his best year at age 30, hitting .282/.339/.481 with 26 homers and 94 RBI. Always durable, he’s started every game for the Giants this season, and he’s played a fine right field and even stolen a career-high 22 bases to go along with his fine offensive numbers.

But this is probably the high point for Pence, and he’s still a borderline All-Star. Pence has never finished in the top 10 of his league in on-base percentage, slugging or OPS. His only top 10 in average came in 2011. His 26 homers this year are a career high. He’s reached 100 RBI once, accomplishing that last year. He’s never scored 100 runs.

Among active outfielders with 1,000 career plate appearances, Pence ranks 28th with an .814 OPS. Fellow free agents-to-be Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz and Corey Hart all have higher marks.

On the plus side, Pence certainly doesn’t figure to turn into a liability as a regular anytime soon. Durability is an underrated factor in evaluating ballplayers, and Pence has played in 154 games in six straight seasons. His only DL stint as a major leaguer came in his rookie season in 2007. The contract covers through age 35, and while I’m skeptical that Pence will be an above average regular in 2018, he’s unlikely to turn into another Rowand.

But, that said, I wouldn’t be particularly excited about paying Pence $18 million in 2014, much less 2018. If he’s your third or fourth best hitter, you probably have something. If you’re counting on him for more than that, then you’re in trouble, much like the Giants were this season.

Barry Zito quietly bids goodbye to the San Francisco Giants

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants

It started with a splash but ended quite quietly. Barry Zito pitched and won for the Giants last night, completing his seven-year contract that, at one time, was considered the worst in baseball history.

Zito gave up two runs — one earned — on four hits over five innings in Wednesday’s win against the Dodgers. As might be expected given his track record in San Francisco, he struck out only one. Contrary to his track record, he didn’t walk a batter. He left between innings and did not therefore force fans to decide to cheer, boo or stand with truly conflicted feelings about how the past seven years have gone.

Zito finishes the year with a record of 5-11 and an ERA of 5.75. He finishes his Giants career with a record of 63-80 and an ERA of 4.62. With the exception of 2011, he basically took the ball every time Bruce Bochy gave it to him, and he rarely complained, and that has to count for something.

And with that, seven years and $126 million is in the rear-view mirror. It’ll be curious to see what the view out of the windshield holds for him, but I bet someone will take a chance on him on a make-good deal next year. He’s left-handed and durable and that’s, like, 65% of pitching value, right?

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins

Tigers 1, Twins 0: The Tigers finally clinch the AL Central. It was a nail-biter, though, as they scored their lone run in the first inning and then held off the Twins all night long. Best part of their celebration? For the second year in a row Max Scherzer rocked the goggles with two different color lenses.

Indians 7, White Sox 2: The Indians keep their foot on the gas, continuing their season-long abuse of the White Sox. They’ve beat the pale hose 14 straight times. Danny Salazar struck out eight dudes in five and a third innings.

Rays 8, Yankees 3: I’ve often said that you can’t count out the Yankees until they are officially dead. Well, now they are officially dead. Phil Hughes failed to get past the fifth inning once again. That makes 14 times for him this year, which ties the single season record since 1969. He’s gone after this year. He needs to retreat to some home for shell-shocked pitchers on the west coast. Like maybe Seattle or San Diego.

Rangers 7, Astros 3: The Rangers are still alive, still one back of Cleveland. The competition now gets considerably tougher, however, as they go from hosting the hapless Astros to the far more hapful Angels.

Brewers 4, Braves 0: I held forth on Twitter about this last night. My view: Carlo Gomez’s home run trot was pretty punky and low rent, but Brian McCann literally blocking the basepaths and preventing Gomez from crossing the plate was just dumb. This is the second or third time this year the Braves and McCann have taken it upon themselves to be the baseball decorum police, and it’s La Russian in its silliness. You know how you deal with a dumb showboat? Ignore him. Point and laugh. Have the scoreboard operator put up the NL standings with the Brewers’ place in them bolded. Spare me the macho You Have To Play The Game The Right Way business and lead by example. For what it’s worth, Gomez apologized after the game. Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t see McCann apologize for instigating a benches-clearing situation which could have gotten someone hurt.

Cubs 4, Pirates 2: The Pirates are now three behind St. Louis with three games to go, so this is pretty much all about the wild card now.

Cardinals 4, Nationals 1: The sweep. Youth served the Cardinals, as youngsters Shelby Miller, Seth Maness, Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal combined for the one-run performance.

Mets 1, Reds 0: Daisuke Matsuzaka made ’em look pretty weak, and the Reds dropped two of three to the Mets and now have to sweep Pittsburgh this weekend to host the wild card game at Great American Ballpark.

Angels 3, Athletics 1: Jered Weaver pitched seven innings of five-hit ball and Josh Hamilton drove in two. If only this sort of combo happened far more between April and August. Alas. The Angels have taken four of six from the A’s in the past week or two and now face the Rangers whose season they can spoil. Probably worth keeping an eye on these guys next year. Just too much talent to continue to suck like they have.

Red Sox 15, Rockies 5: Todd Helton got a horse, a homer and a double in his final home game for the Rockies, but he also got a pretty darn decisive loss. Will Middlebrooks had two homers — a grand slam and a three-run shut — to give him seven RBI.

Marlins 3, Phillies 2: Adeiny Hechavarria drove in three runs, including the go-ahead run in the eighth.

Orioles 9, Blue Jays 5: Four homers for the O’s as they continue to play out the string with Adam Jones, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters on the bench. This win finally assured them of a .500+ record.

Padres 12, Diamondbacks 2 : Twelve runs for the Padres? Wow. After the game Jedd Gyorko said “It’s been awhile since we had a game like that.” Heck, there are stretches of five or six games combined where they haven’t had a performance like that.

Mariners 6, Royals 0: The Royals bow out of the playoff race. On the one hand, if you told me before the season that Kansas City would be in it until just before the last weekend of the year I’d say that they had an amazing, expectation-exceeding season. On the other hand, having watched them more closely this year than we normally have watched them, it’s hard to escape the feeling that what ultimately did them in was too many stretches on not playing up to potential. Obviously this was still a successful season. But such a weird team. One that can look so good in some stretches and look so bad in others.

Giants 6, Dodgers 4: Likely Barry Zito’s last win for the Giants. Seven years in Oakland, seven years in San Francisco. Nice bookends I suppose, with a lot of overpaid performance in the middle, but such is life. He left the game between innings so he didn’t get a standing ovation. One wonders what the San Francisco fans would have done if he had been pulled mid-inning. What is the proper response to someone who was around for so much success but, really, didn’t contribute too terribly much to it?