The answer came when Zito agreed to a whopping seven-year, $126 million contract with the Giants, which proved just how little chance the A's ever had to retain him.
"Personally, I'm happy," A's general manager Billy Beane said. "I like Barry a lot. He's a great pitcher and he's every bit as good a guy. It'll be neat to keep an eye on him across the bay. Better there than the American League West."
Zito's now ex-teammates in Oakland were happy when told the news.
"It's the perfect place for him," A's second baseman Mark Ellis said. "He stays on the West Coast. He can do his thing and not get as heavily scrutinized as he would in other places. The fans will love him over there, as they did in Oakland. It will be a great fit for Barry. Obviously, I wish he was with us. But if he can't be with us, that's the second-best place for him."
Born in Las Vegas and raised in San Diego, the 28-year-old Zito has always liked San Francisco. Unlike most of his teammates who lived in the East Bay suburbs, Zito lived in San Francisco during most of his seasons with the A's.
--OF Lastings Milledge, the Mets prospect whom the A's have lusted over for a couple of years, could still be on their radar screen this offseason. Milledge figures to start the year in the minors for the Mets, but they need starting pitching and the A's have it.
--RHP Joe Blanton is the most likely starter who would be packaged for a young outfielder. Blanton is viewed by the A's as a back-of-the-rotation starter, yet he's had enough success after two seasons to attract other teams and he's affordable.
--LF Shannon Stewart and RF Trot Nixon are among the free agents still available, but it's unlikely the A's will pursue a veteran outfielder. With nine players eligible for salary arbitration, the A's still have a lot of negotiating to do.
--LHP Joe Kennedy has one year left before free agency. Kennedy stands to make a bunch of money next year on the open market, judging by the salaries given out this year, especially if he wins a job in the A's starting rotation.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4th -- Where Barry Zito ranks in Oakland A's history in wins (102), strikeouts (1,096) and games started (222). He's fifth in winning percentage (.618) and innings pitched (1,430.1).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We should have rooted for them harder." -- A's general manager Billy Beane on the Giants. Since the Giants finished in the bottom half in baseball, the A's receive their second-round draft pick instead of a first-round pick as compensation for signing Barry Zito.