Being a writer is far from the hardest job out there, but it has its moments. For example, some days you have to face a blank computer screen and think of something to say about Barry Zito. As you know, with the Yankees’ rotation still being more conceptual than actual, we and the rest of the journo-blogging establishment are obligated to write up a post as to whether the pitcher in question, who isn’t good enough to make his own team can put on pinstripes and help the Yankees get back to the World Series. This reminds me all too much of the Steve Trout days, but then, many things remind me of the Steve Trout days. I remind me of the Steve Trout days. I look in the mirror sometimes and think, "Goldman, I just won you the pennant. I got you Steve Trout." Then I go have a bland breakfast of thin gruel and antidepressants.
The latest potential zombie is Barry Zito. Or maybe the latest potential Zito is Barry Zombie. The Man who Would Be Trout is probably not even available, because (A) the Giants would have to eat a tremendous amount of money, sunk cost or not, over $64 million; (B) although he’s not living up to his superstar-level contract, in three of the last four seasons he’s been a roughly league-average pitcher, and that has value; (C) the Giants don’t have a better option anyway.
Should the Giants choose to ignore all of that, would Zito be an improvement on what the Yankees have on tap for their fourth and fifth spots in the rotation? Probably, if we’re making a comparison to Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, but perhaps not by a great deal. His command, which seemed to b e headed somewhere really good as of 2002, now wanders, and his strikeout rate is unexceptional. That makes for a bad combination in the DH league, where a walk, a single, and Nelson Cruz can put you down by a field goal in a hurry. That’s not to say he’s insanely wild, but that his roughly four walks per nine innings is more sustainable in the league of big parks and pitchers hitting. His 2010 ERA away from San Francisco was 5.09. That seems like a fair indicator of what an AL team might get out of him, particularly one that makes its home in the launching pad that is Yankee Stadium III.
Having said all of that, there is still some life in that arm. Zito and his curve still gets some strikeouts, which is something you can no longer say about Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, and it’s not clear if we will ever be able to say that about Ivan Nova, despite his good stuff. That doesn’t seem like enough to me, not with so many good young pitching prospects who could be deemed ready by June. As I’ve said throughout the offseason, if your upside ERA is somewhere between 4.50 and 5.50, better than go with the kids. You’ll be disappointed if they do that, which is the whole point: their failure threshold and the veteran’s success threshold are the same. Better to save your money and build for the future and win at the same time.
Being reminded of Steve Trout is about endings, of things that once worked but no longer do. Put that option aside every time it's offered to you, and go for fresh fish.