Barry Zito is now signed through 2006 at $8.5 million for the upcoming season. One of the biggest questions facing Billy Beane this offseason will be whether or not to sign Zito to a long-term extension, trade him this winter or let him walk after next season and take the draft picks for whatever team signs him.
I think we got an indication of what Billy Beane thinks of taking draft picks for his Big Three pitchers last offseason. That is, he doesn't really want them.
So, I honestly believe that Zito is either going to have to negotiate an extension this offseason or he will be dealt.
Why do I bring this up now? Besides this being one of the hottest topics of conversation this offseason, I recently read Mychael Urban's excellent piece in ESPN: The Magazine this week. I would highly recommend you pick up the issue and read it. It chronicles the strikingly similar seasons that Mulder, Hudson and Zito have had. The glue that brings the story together though is the text message conversations that the former teammates had throughout the season. And you know what? Mark Mulder sounds unhappy in St. Louis. Tim Hudson sounds as though he's had to really work to get the Atlanta clubhouse to change into more of an Oakland-type of atmosphere.
My hope is that Zito listened closely to this chatter. Because even though both are in the playoffs and have a good chance of going to and possibly even winning the World Series, both seem as though they miss Oakland. I'm hoping that that and the fact that Z is the veteran pitcher on the club that he would consider that when he decides what his extension cost would be.
Or if Zito doesn't decide to give Oakland a hometown discount, he will likely be going through the same transition Mulder and Hudson went through this year. The thing is, I think the A's would prefer to keep Zito because of Rich Harden's injury problems. The question is, will Zito want to stay here? Or are the rumors of him wanting a bigger stage like LA or NYC come true?
Those are some of the most pressing things that inquiring A's fans want to know.