And the last stupid contract of 2006 goes to…

December 29th, 2006 → 1:10 pm @ // 10 Comments

Barry Zito!

It’s not all that surprising: when Gil Meche and Ted Lilly are getting enough money to ensure their grandchildren’s grandchildren will be set for life, it was a no-brainer that Zito was going to get enough money to paper his yoga room in $100,000 bills. (If only there were such things as $100,000 bills. Sigh.) What is surprising is that Zito’s contract is, arguably, as dumb (from a management standpoint) as either Meche’s or Lilly’s.

Zito’s contract — $126 million for a seven-year deal* — is the richest ever given to a pitcher. (Zito is tied for the sixth-biggest contract in the history of the game…and three of those have been signed in the last two months.) He’s the third pitcher to get a $100 million deal. And he’s likely to work out about as well as the two that came before him: Mike Hampton ($121 million/8 years in ’01) and Kevin Brown ($105 million/7 years in ’99). I’m pretty sure those three guys are the only pitchers in the history of the game to get contracts for seven or more years, which should tell you something about throwing around that much money for hurlers. (The fourth and fifth richest pitcher contracts belong to Mike Mussina ($88.5 mil/6 years, ’01) and Pedro ($75 mil/6 years, ’99) — arguably the only two six-year pitcher deals that have ever worked out.) You know a deal is a shitty one for the club when it makes the Rangers (who maked out at 6 yrs/$84 mil) and the Mets (5 yrs, $75 mil) look economical in comparison.

A cursory glance at Zito’s CV does give the impression that he’s one of the game’s elite pitchers: a Cy Young award (2002), a .618 career winning percentage, (102-63), and a career 3.55 ERA. But that Cy Young award was a stone-cold theft from Pedro, who was so much better than Zito that year it was a joke, and Zito might very well have the softest .618 winning percentage in the game. As the always on-the-mark Keith Law points out, Zito has been “the beneficiary of a favorable ballpark with lots of foul territory, a favorable schedule, great bullpen support and outstanding outfield defense — and he’s not going to receive either the defense or the relief help in San Francisco. … committing long-term to a guy who at best is a No. 3 starter on a contender is madness.”

Indeed.

Anyway, hats off to Scott Boras, who got San Francisco to pay somewhere north of $25 million more than any other bidders.

Obligatory Boston-New York content: I’m with Law in considering Zito nothing more than a 3rd starter on a playoff team, but the Yankees had to be at least considering Zito as a potential left-handed replacement for Randy Johnson should the previously dominating Unit head west in a trade. I thought all the Zito to the AL East talk was a bit overblown, and I couldn’t see Cashman and Co. getting into a bidding war for a pitcher they must know isn’t all that. But it does alter the playing field a bit…

(Addendum: Maybe I’m hopelessly naive, but it seems to me at least some of these guys must end up feeling a little guilty when it turns out they’ve fleeced the crap out of a club. Back at the end of Teddy Ballgame’s career, he insisted on returning some salary when he had a crappy year. Granted, he was dealing with tens of thousands and not tens of millions of dollars…but don’t you think some of the Mike Hamptons of the world wake up in cold sweats?

Just kidding! Of course they don’t! One can never have enough manicured Arizona lawns, can one?)

* The deal is being reported as being worth six-years and $126 million, but from my reading of the press reports, it’s actually worth a minimum of $133 million: Zito has an $18-million team option for 2014 that can be bought out for $7 million. The option becomes guaranteed if Zito reaches some innings milestones, which would make this worth $144 million.


Post Categories: 2006 Hot Stove Season & Barry Zito & Scott Boras

10 Comments → “And the last stupid contract of 2006 goes to…”


  1. Ogie Oglethorpe

    10 years ago

    The NL is becoming a retirement home for pitchers (Pedro, Clemens, Zito and possibly RJ). Schilling did the reverse commute. I’m wondering how successful Pettitte will be when he returns to the Bronx.

    Reply

  2. PatsFanDK

    10 years ago

    SF is paying $18mil/yr for a very dependable guy that will win 15-17 games with an ERA in the mid to high 3s. Is that worth it in today’s market? I’m not so sure.

    The Matsusaka deal keeps looking better with each subsequent signing…granted, he’s no sure thing like Zito is. But I think most clubs would rather pay a high ceiling guy like Dice-K $17mil/yr (including posting fee) than someone $18mil/yr who, at best, is a #2.

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  3. HFXBOB

    10 years ago

    Somebody ought to-in fact somebody surely will-track these lunatic contracts against the on-field performances of the happy recipients and will let us know someday which one was in fact the wackiest. One guy that I am going to be watching is Jason Marquis. When I look at his 2006 numbers and realize that the Cubs just gave him a 3 year contract for $21 million I start giggling helplessly. I mean those were some remarkably bad numbers. 16 losses, 6.02 ERA, 35 HR, 75 BB, 16 HBP and 96 SO in 194 IP. And that was in the National League! Imagine how much loot he would have gotten if he had actually gotten anybody out. As Kevin Costner said in JFK, we are through the looking glass, people.

    Reply

  4. V06

    10 years ago

    “I’m pretty sure those three guys are the only pitchers in the history of the game to get contracts for seven or more years…”

    I’m pretty sure you missed recalling the first, worst one.

    Free agent pitcher Wayne Garland signed a 10 year, $2.3 million contract with the Cleveland Indians in 1977. Over the next 5 season he went 28-48 due to arm troubles. Cleveland waived him with 5 years left on his contract in 1982 and he never pitched in the majors again. He was the original poster boy for bad long-term, free-agent contracts for pitchers.

    Reply

  5. jolley16

    10 years ago

    I don’t think the NL is where pitcher’s go to die because honestly there isn’t too much starting pitching to begin with. There may be 20 pitchers in the entire league that you actually always believe will give your team a better chance to win than loose. Its crazy that the Yankees may only have one in Mussian(sorry Wang, I suffered through “great” sinkerballers like Lowe and Danny Graves) and teams like Reds (Harang, Arroyo) and Dodgers (Schmidt & Lowe/Penny?, can’t believe I wrote/contradicted myself that) may have two.
    The fact is that when teams like the Cardinals in 06, Sox in 04, and Angels in 02 win the series without great pitching, you would think that huge contracts for “studs” would die. The pitching may help a little getting there, but in a best of 7 series, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

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  6. tmurph13

    10 years ago

    Just because It’s 3:00 AM here in Dublin and I have a spreadsheet open I took the garland contract calculated a 1977 NPV and translated that value to 2006 dollars and it comes to a little over $5 Million. By comparison the Marquis contract carries a 2006 NPV of just over $19M. I know Garland turned out a bust, but if you offered a baseball GM someone with his 1977 numbers(http://www.baseball-reference.com/g/garlawa01.shtml) a chance at him for $5Million and get a chance to lock him up for a decade at that price, I’d bet they all would bite. I know I’d take 4 1977 Wayne Garlands for one 2006 Marquis. Night folks.

    Reply

  7. Mr. Furious

    10 years ago

    If I recall correctly, Kevin Appier left a lot of money on the table a few years back because he didn’t feel like he was earning it anymore. He was getting paid a hefty MLB contract to rehab in the minors, and he had a Ted Williams-y moment…

    Kevin Appier is temporarily retiring.
    Appier was scheduled to pitch today for Tripe-A Omaha as part of his latest rehabilitation assignment, but Appier has decided against it. His plan is to rest up, then try to pitch again next year. “I don’t want to make these guys pay me to play in the minor leagues,” Appier said. “That’s why I would retire — so they wouldn’t have to pay me.” Appier is 36 years old, and his rehab assignment was not going terribly well, so there is a question as to whether he can be an effective pitcher in the majors again. He will likely seek out a major league minimum salary at the start of next season and hope to catch on with a team willing to give him a shot. We shall see.

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  8. chris

    10 years ago

    Gotta agree with the sentiments here, even if Gammo has a soft spot for Zito.

    Matsuzaka’s deal is especially valuable when you consider that, to other teams who didn’t pay the posting fee, he’s carrying a $9 mil/yr deal. If he lives up to his potential, that’s incredibly cheap, and if the Sox ever had to unload him for some reason, they won’t be begging people to take his contract.

    Reply

  9. miles44

    10 years ago

    I love Gammons’ blog post on Zito’s signing. Basically, Zito plays guitar, so it’s justified.

    Reply

  10. pedro

    10 years ago

    Help from the ballpark? Seth and Keith, do the research. granted it’s a massive ballpark, but in 2006 Zito was 6-7 with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP giving up 18 gopher balls and a 113 hits in 17 games. In the same number of games he had a 2.97 ERA 1.36 WHIP 98 hits 9 HR in 112 innings.

    In his career he has a 3.66 ERA at the Oakland Coliseum (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) with a 1.22 WHIP and a 3.44 ERa away from home. and in more four innings away from the OakCol he has 30 more K’s 16 fewers HRs and 6 fewer hits.

    So, he’s not exactly benefitted from that park. C’mon man look it up before you post it.

    Reply

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