NEW YORK -- Oakland's Barry Zito, who could be the most
sought-after pitcher in this year's free-agent market, filed for
free agency Tuesday.
Zito, a 28-year-old left-hander with a coveted, looping
curveball, was 16-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 34 starts this season. He
never missed a start because of injury in his first seven major
league seasons with the Athletics, who acknowledged before the 2006
season they probably wouldn't be able to afford the 2002 AL Cy
Young award winner once he became a free agent.
Greg Maddux, the four-time Cy Young Award winner traded to the
Los Angeles Dodgers by the Chicago Cubs in July, also filed.
Injured Dodgers closer Eric Gagne filed provisionally -- the team
has a $12 million option with a $1 million buyout. Even if it is
exercised, Gagne can void the option and receive a $250,000 buyout.
Also filing was Jeff Weaver, who won the fifth and final game of
the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals last Friday and
Detroit first baseman Sean Casey, who hit .529 with two homers in
the World Series.
A total of 143 players have filed for free agency, and about 50
more are potentially eligible to file by the Nov. 11 deadline.
As expected, Jeff Bagwell's $18 million option was declined by
the Houston Astros, who will give the injured 38-year-old first
baseman a $7 million buyout to complete an $85 million, five-year
contract. Bagwell missed last season because of an arthritic right
shoulder, and the Astros tried to recoup about $15.6 million in
Zito, who won a career-high 23 games in '02, is likely to
attract interest from the New York Yankees and Mets, the San Diego
Padres and perhaps the Dodgers.