Way back in 2006, the top free agent starter was a quirky former Cy Young Award winner named Barry Zito. The Mets seemed like the front-runner for the left-hander, but he ultimately signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Giants.
Many Mets fans were upset that Omar Minaya didn’t go all in for the one time 20-game winner, but the Amazin’ Avenue faithful knew better. Eric Simon led the charge claiming the team was fortunate to not be on the hook for such a large contract, and the community came to a near unanimous decision that the Mets dodged a bullet.
Of course, the AA crowd got it right. The contract became an albatross not long after Zito threw his first pitch in San Francisco. The Giants did win two World Series despite Zito’s presence, but his 2014 option was mercifully declined.
Zito now hits the free agent market after posting a 5.74 ERA with his usual poor walk and strikeout rates in 2013.
Zito has been below replacement level for two of his last three seasons. Calling him a back-end starter would be generous, but some team might be willing to take a chance on the lefty based on name alone. Giving him a major league deal would already be too much, but a minor league contract sounds harmless. Zito’s greatest attribute, his left-handedness, could always land him a bullpen role in the majors.
Zito didn’t make sense for the Mets in 2006 and he doesn’t make sense now. He’s a lefty and won’t cost anything, but there are minor leaguers who can put up the same numbers.