The news that Barry Zito will be staying in the Bay Area is surprising, to say the least. Most pundits had Zito pegged for the New York Mets, where he could have been teamed with former Oakland A's pitching coach Rick Peterson. Zito was thought to crave the red-hot spotlight of New York City, as well as a chance to pitch for a team poised to make a World Series run.
Zito flirted with Texas early in the recruiting process, although few who had watched Zito pitch during his time in Oakland thought that he would end up in Arlington. There were also rumors that Zito was interested in Seattle and Anaheim, but neither team appears to have gotten actively involved in the negotiations.
The Zito-to-New York news really heated up over the holiday weekend, when rumors out of the Big Apple began to surface that the Yankees were trying to trade Randy Johnson in order to make room for Zito.
In the end, if reports are to be believed, Zito settled on a move that would take him only a few miles west: San Francisco. According to reports on FoxSports, ESPN and the AP, Zito is set to sign a whopping seven-year, $126 million deal with the Giants to head up their pitching staff well into the next decade. Zito will take the place of departed Giants' ace Jason Schmidt, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this off-season.
It has been a long time since the A's lost any player of significance to the cross-bay Giants. After the 2002 season, the Giants signed then-A's DH Ray Durham to a three-year deal. Although he was a good lead-off hitter for the A's, he only spent a half season in Oakland, so his loss was not all that profound.
Vida Blue's switch from the green and gold to the orange and black in the late-1970s is probably the best comparison to the Zito switch to San Francisco. Blue won three World Series with Oakland, threw a no-hitter, won an MVP and a Cy Young and was one of the most well-known players on the A's in the 1970s. He had his best seasons as a pitcher in Oakland, but he did win 18 gamse during his first season in San Francisco in 1978.
Zito leaves the A's with a career record of 102-63 and an ERA of 3.55. He won 16 games for Oakland in 2006 and led the rotation in ERA with a 3.83 mark. His best season came in 2002 when he went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA and a 169 ERA+. He won the Cy Young award that season.
Zito posted a 3.30 ERA in 2003, but has not been as sharp the last three seasons, as his ERAs have been 4.48, 3.86 and 3.83, respectively. His walk rate has also increased over the last few years. He set a career-high in walks in 2006 with 99. Zito has been a very durable pitcher for the A's, making at least 34 starts in every season since 2001, his first full season in the big leagues.
Zito will be remembered in Oakland for his wacky personality, being a part of the A's famed "Big Three" pitching staff and his victory over the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Division Series in 2000 when he was a rookie. He is one of only four A's pitchers to win 100 games in an Oakland uniform. He was the A's first round draft pick in 1999 and he made his major league debut a year later.
Because the Giants finished with the 15th-worst record in 2006, the A's will not receive the Giants first round pick. Instead, the A's will receive a supplemental pick and the Giants' second round pick in the June 2007 draft.