Contract aside, Zito's not bad

Craig makes a good point about Barry Zito, who says he wants to be really good again:

    Barry Zito is not worth his contract and given that the guy will make $20M+ in 2013, he never will be. And with Tim Lincecum -- and Matt Cain! -- around he will never be the Giants' number one guy.

    But there's every reason to think that he can be a useful part of the Giants rotation for the next several years. He's durable, reliable and if last year is any indication, he's showing that he can learn to pitch without his young man stuff. Indeed, he even flashed some genuine brilliance in a couple of starts against the Rockies late in the season. Plus, seeing he's lefthanded, there's every reason to think that Zito could chug along for many, many more years and wind up with well north of 200 wins.

    That doesn't make him an ace or anything, but the mere fact that Brian Sabean decided to grossly over pay him doesn't render him a punchline.

I was thinking exactly the same thing just the other day.

Look, the contract has been a train wreck, and will continue to be a train wreck. The train wreck's not been as ugly lately, but Zito's never going to be worth $20 million and that's what he's going to earn through 2013 (in 2014, the Giants can pay him $18 million to pitch or $7 million to go away).

He's not worthless, though. Before Zito, the last contract that looked so awful after a couple of years was Mike Hampton's eight-year, $121 million deal. While they were eventually able to trade Hampton for some useful players, they essentially wound up spending $52 million for one decent (14-13, 5.41 ERA) season and one lousy (7-15, 6.15) season. Zito's already given the Giants two seasons better than Hampton's best, and for less money per season (not to mention inflation).

It's fair to bring up Zito's salary when discussing the Giants' finances, because his contract presumably does prevent the organization from doing some other things. But Zito's good enough to pitch (and start) for most teams in the majors. There's little reason to bring up his $126 million contract after every bad start. The joke just isn't funny anymore.