12.26.06

Heyman : Unit Trade Precursor To Yanks’ Zito Bid?

Posted in Baseball at 2:05 pm by

If SI.com’s Jon Heyman has to spoil Christmas for someone, why can’t it be his own family rather than Mets fans?

If they can pull off the blockbuster trade they’re talking about, the New York Yankees could replace one star left-hander with another.

Randy Johnson is available, and the Yankees have begun trade talks with the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and possibly the San Francisco Giants, and if they are able to deal Johnson, the Yankees could jump in as a surprise late entrant in the Barry Zito sweepstakes.

The Yankees have been on the periphery of the Zito negotiations so far, but it’s logical to think they’d enter the talks for the top free-agent pitcher if they were to find a trade for Johnson. The crosstown Mets are currently bidding for Zito, as are the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Giants. Zito is believed to be seeking a seven-year deal for close to $17 million annually.

The Yankees seemed lukewarm for most of this winter about the prospect of adding Zito but probably realize now that he is their best bet to improve their rotation. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman did not show much interest in Zito when he met with Zito’s agent, Scott Boras, almost three weeks ago in Orlando, Fla. However, one of the Yankees’ goals is to get younger, and Zito, 28, would enable them to do that.

Though Mike Steffanos “can’t help but feel a sense of relief that Jeff Suppan won’t be a New York Met for the next 4-5 years,”, he’s not ready to assume the Rangers are out of the mix on the Zito front.

At $42 million for four years, this contract doesn’t stand out compared to some of this off-season’s signings, but think about it for a minute. An average of $13 million per year for a pitcher with a lifetime record of 106-101 (actually $10.5 million, as pointed out in the comments, guess Christmas has addled my brain) and an ERA of 4.6 is just another indication of how crazy the pitching market is right now. While I believe Jeff Suppan will give the Brewers a serviceable four years, I really wonder about this one.

The pressure increases to sign Zito. As reported yesterday, the trade for Brandon McCarthy and Rangers GM Jon Daniels’ remarks admitting to being not “terribly encouraged” about signing Zito would seem to indicate that the Rangers could be falling out of the chase. I wonder about that, however.

Think about it. Barry Zito claims that one of his criteria for signing with a team is that they have a commitment to winning. With McCarthy slotting in to a rotation with Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla and the somewhat promising Robinson Tejeda, the Rangers would seem to finally have a chance to have a rotation that complements their offense. Add Zito and you have one of the better rotations in the AL. The Rangers could still be heard from here.

I’m not quite sure how I missed this one (probably while marveling at the MySpace profile of the alleged Ivy League physicist who invented, then deleted his imaginary girlfriend), but Chris Woodward (above) will be hugging it out in Atlanta next season.

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