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.

Carter Stewart will get $7 million over six years to play for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

Associated Press
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Yesterday we wrote about Carter Stewart, the American pitcher who, after failing to sign with the Braves last year, went to junior college. Rather than re-enter the draft this year, Stewart has signed with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese Pacific League.

Jeff Passan of ESPN has the details on that deal: $7 million for six years. That’s five million more than the lowball offer the Braves gave him after drafting him last year and over $2 million more than he would’ve gotten if the Braves had paid him slot last year. This year he was projected to be a second round pick, Passan says, so his slot bonus would’ve been under $2 million.

As Passan notes, though, he has the chance to make out far better than that, though. That’s because his six-year deal would allow the now-19-year-old Stewart to come back to the U.S. as a 25-year-old free agent via the posting system. Passan does some back-of-the-envelope figuring, comparing what he’d make in the U.S. had he stayed vs. the $7 million he’s now guaranteed in Japan:

In a near-optimal scenario, Stewart would receive around $4 million for the next six years — and would not reach free agency until after the 2027 season, when he will be 28. His deal with the Hawks would guarantee Stewart $3 million more and potentially allow him to hit free agency three years earlier.

He could flame out, of course. The Braves’ lowball offer was based on concerns about his wrist. Even without that, there are no guarantees when young arms are involved.

But there is a $7 million guarantee for Stewart now, and the chance to do better than if he had stayed in the U.S. And the opportunity was created, in large part, by Major League Baseball’s clamping down on pay for draft picks and doing whatever it can to extend team control over players via service time manipulation. Stewart, and his agent Scott Boras, are merely exploiting an inefficiency in the market.