Without a doubt, Barry Zito's resurgence for the San Francisco Giants comes with implications that may extend beyond this season and even the next one. His contract with the team is guaranteed through next season, but various situations could see him pitch for the team beyond then. Such a thought would have been implausible and unthinkable at the start of the season. Still, it does not hurt to think about this situation now that he is performing well consistently.
Will Zito still be wearing orange and black in 2014 and beyond?
In his most recent start, he threw 8.1 shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs. I think opening the season with a surprising complete game shutout completely changed the tone of his season. After 11 starts, he sports a 5-2 record with a 2.98 earned run average. Of course, that is his lowest ERA since 2002 when he won the Cy Young award. Most of his numbers stand a lot closer to his past successful campaigns in Oakland rather than his mediocrity in San Francisco.
His contract is only guaranteed through 2013 but carries a team option for 2014. If the team wants to exercise that option, then Zito will earn $18.0 million. For obvious reasons, the organization is highly unlikely to do so no matter how he performs between now and then. His contract includes automatic vesting options should he pitch 200 innings in 2013 or 400 innings between 2012 and 2013. The chances of that option vesting are slim because he last pitched 200 innings in 2006.
Undoubtedly, the usefulness of an effective Barry Zito for the Giants cannot be overstated. I doubt the team picks up his option or he meets the innings requirements for automatic vesting. San Francisco could absolutely renegotiate a new deal with him though. Obviously, we are not talking about anything more than a one- to two-year deal worth far less than he is earning now. He has pitched like a fifth starter for years now and should be paid as such.
Let's say that he ends this season with a 3.50 to 4.25 ERA and then does the same next season. Also, we can assume he would pitch somewhere between 300 and 360 innings between the two seasons. That would give the team a pretty decent reason to consider re-signing him for a season or two. Most organizations would love a starter that can pitch over 150 innings with a 4.00 ERA. Fortunately, these are not unrealistic targets for Zito by any means although a 3.50 ERA seems less likely.
Of course, this entire situation is contingent upon a few things. Barry Zito needs to keep performing consistently well and prove that he can bring something beneficial to the team. The San Francisco Giants then need to renegotiate a less expensive and team-friendly deal with him. Plus, Zito will be 36 years-old in 2014, so he may hold no desire to keep pitching professionally. In my opinion, he seems like the kind of player that would keep going to give the team and fans at least a handful of decent seasons.
We won't have an answer on this situation for at least another season, but Barry Zito might not be finished with the Giants until 2014 or beyond.
Errick D. Williams is a lifelong fan of the San Francisco Giants who has attended over 200 games at AT&T Park. He lives in San Diego but regularly travels back up to the Bay Area to catch a game with friends and family members.