Originally posted on Full Spectrum Baseball  |  Last updated 3/28/12

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll start off this post by saying I’ve been a San Francisco Giants fan since childhood. And initially when the Giants signed Barry Zito in December 2006, I was excited. It’s been a long time since then– five seasons and a 43-61 record with a 4.55 ERA, to be precise– but yes, when the Giants splurged $126 million over seven years on the former American League Cy Young winner, I figured it was the bold move they needed to be relevant again.

Boy, was I wrong, like the time I said the Giants should trade a young Tim Lincecum for then-Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios (because, hey, the Giants needed and still need offense.) If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I’m often gloriously wrong. On the following statement, though, I have little doubt: The Giants have finally reached a point where they can rid themselves of Barry Zito.

The seven years on Zito’s contract couldn’t have seemed like a bleaker eternity if Dostoevsky had included them in an ESPN-centric edition of Crime & Punishment, but San Francisco is finally nearing the light at the end of the tunnel. Just $46 million remains to be paid for Zito between $19 million due this season, $20 million in 2013, and a $7 million buyout for 2014. That’s cringe-worthy, but it’s not unmovable.

The Giants have options. They can keep trying Zito as a sometimes starter and long reliever, hoping perhaps that he’ll improve on his 1.407 WHIP or cumulative 3.8 WAR during his time in San Francisco. They can consign him to Triple-A, swallowing their mistake as the New York Yankees have done with Kei Igawa. Or they can go with their third and best option: They can move him. If the Yankees could recently pawn off A.J. Burnett, it doesn’t seem inconceivable that the Giants could do likewise with Zito.

Here are three ways the Giants could trade Barry Zito:

  1. Eat $35-40 million of the remaining dollars on Zito’s contract and send him somewhere like the Baltimore Orioles. At this point, the $46 million is a sunk cost for the Giants, and if they can recoup even a fraction of that, it’d be something. Even getting a few bucks for Zito and not having him commanding a roster spot for San Francisco is good enough for me.
  2. Use Zito as leverage for giving the Oakland Athletics territorial rights to San Jose. Fellow baseball writer Wendy Thurm tweeted this idea Monday, and while it seems too fantastical to happen, just imagine: The Giants get a good prospect, one of the A’s extra outfielders perhaps, and they rid themselves of Zito; in return, the A’s get an expedited hold of one of America’s best markets for corporate sponsorship, the Silicon Valley.
  3. The Giants take back a bad contract in return. Perhaps Zito and, say, Vernon Wells would each benefit from a change of scenery.

Honestly, if I’m Brian Sabean, I start thinking more and more in the months to come about simply giving Zito his walking papers. It worked for Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada, and even if it means the Giants may eventually be spending more having guys not play for their teams than some teams do on their entire payrolls, it’d still be worth it to me.


Graham Womack is the founder and editor of Baseball: Past and Present and can be found here every Wednesday. Follow him on Twitter @grahamdude.

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