MLB Arizona Diamondbacks

The New York Mets Should Look to Acquire the San Francisco Giants’ Barry Zito

This past weekend I put together a Playstation 3 inspired post suggesting that the New York Mets should look to add payroll this offseason. Take a minute to read over that if you want the full breadth of the idea. If you’re just trying to get a little New York Mets fix before you go about your day, I’ll just give you the Cliff’s notes. In order to add to their farm system and further fortify the foundation of their future, the New York Mets should trade for a team’s albatross contract in its entirety…along with an impact prospect or two. The San Francisco Giants handed out one of the contracts most synonymous with “albatross” in 2007 when they gave Barry Zito $126 million over seven years, so naturally I wanted to start with him.

Seeing as my knowledge of the San Francisco Giants is inferior to that of the Mets, I’ll try to not to offend any Giants fans out there with any ludicrous suggestions. There are three things that I do know though. 1). The Giants and the fans have reasonably high expectations for 2012. The National League West is not a juggernaut division and the Arizona Diamondbacks do not appear to be that far ahead of the pack. 2). In order to realize these expectations, the Giants want to upgrade their offense – an offense that finished next to last in all of baseball (only scoring 14 more runs than the Seattle Mariners). 3). An offensive upgrade in the form of a Jose Reyes or Prince Fielder type signing would provide a big boost, but the money owed to Barry Zito is a big hurdle standing in the way.

Zito still has two years and at least $46 million left on his deal ($39 million combined salary plus $7 million buyout on his 2014 $18 million option). If the Giants were able to find a taker for the balance of Zito’s contract, they would be looking at a ton of money to work with during the 2011-2012 Hot Stove season. The need for the Giants to free up some money has been discussed before. Guys (or maybe it was just one guy) who get paid more than I do to write about baseball have suggested that Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum should be dangled in order to not only free up money to spend on a big free agent bat, but to bring in an impact offensive prospect as well. While the idea makes sense in theory, it still seems like they would be taking two steps forward and 1.5 steps back.

This brings me back to a hypothetical Barry Zito plus prospect(s) package. Trading away prospects is never a popular idea – especially when something tangible isn’t coming back in return. Assuming the Giants are really committed to contending for another World Series title and are genuinely focused on freeing up cash, wouldn’t the Giants and the fans be more willing to move Zito and a couple of highly touted – yet unproven – prospects instead of Lincecum or Cain? I’d at least imagine so. I’d also have to imagine that a lot of people in San Francisco – fans and front office execs – would do back flips if they could wiggle their way from under the massive financial commitment still owed to Zito.

One big snag in this idea – besides the whole trading something for “nothing” part – is Barry Zito’s full no-trade clause. It’s a big snag, but it wouldn’t be the first time a player with a full no-trade clause got moved. I don’t want to go all mom and pop on you, but if there’s a will, there’s a way.

I’ve spent all this time talking about the San Francisco Giants. What about the New York Mets though? There would have to be a damn good reason for Sandy Alderson and Co. to take on $46 million for production that is likely to be pretty weak. There are four Giants prospects that catch my eye as a Mets fan.

  1. Centerfielder Gary Brown – Brown is a speedster (3.96 from home-to-first according to Baseball America’s 2011 Prospect Handbook) with Gold Glove potential. He’s not a guy who projects to produce big power numbers, but he does have some pop. I would love the Mets to acquire Brown because that would allow the Mets to trade David Wright for a package centered around someone other than the Los Angeles Angels’ Peter Bourjos.  I could reel off an extra 300+ words on a David Wright trade, but I’m going to stay on topic.
  2. Outfielder Francisco Peguero – Peguero is a toolsy prospect that Baseball America tabs as the best power/speed combo in the Giants’ system. He’s a free swinger though and could use a little more patience after drawing only five walks compared to 45 whiffs in 285 Double-A at-bats this past season.
  3. Shortstop Brandon Crawford – With Jose Reyes likely leaving via free agency, the Mets have an opening at shortstop. Ruben Tejeda is in line to take over, but he has hardly earned a free path to the position. While Crawford has not shown it yet at the big league level, he has some power to go along with good defensive skills.
  4. Shortstop Ehire Adrianza – The only reason I am including Adrianza here is because the Mets will likely be losing Reyes. According to Baseball America, Adrianza is a defensive whiz with Gold Gloves in his future. He can’t hit though – not yet at least. There is always value in a vacuum at shortstop, but the Mets already had Rey Ordonez.

I’m not really into suggesting specific trade packages, but each of the four players I listed seem like reasonable requests from the New York Mets if negotiations were to take place. Crawford and Adrianza, in particular, might become expendable if the extra money that the Giants saved was used to sign Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins.

The idea that the New York Mets should trade for Barry Zito and his massive contract may be just as far-fetched as the San Francisco Giants trading a package of players for nothing except salary relief. I also can’t think of a previous deal that sets quite the same precedent for the hypothetical swap that I just spent the previous 1000+ words suggesting, but there’s a first time for everything right?