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Esteban!

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No, not the one who plays guitar on early morning infomercials and saved a bunch of money by switching to Geico. Esteban Loaiza is officially an Oakland Athletic.

And the more I think about it, the more I like it. It does seem to have the writing on the wall for Barry Zito's career in Oakland. The reason? Zito is younger, but he and Loaiza put up nearly the identical value over replacement player last year (Zito - 41.8 and Loaiza 42.1). Loaiza had a 3.77 ERA in the NL compared with Zito's 3.86 in the AL. The A's also get a pitcher with more control. Zito has 461 walks in his career. That's over five and a half seasons. Loaiza? 539 walks in his career. And that's over 10 seasons. The A's lose nothing in terms of the health factor as Loaiza has a track record of pitching a lot of innings. The dollars seem like a lot, but in order to sign Zito to an extension, it probably would've taken a 5 year, $50 million extension at least.

So, if (and it's a big IF) Billy Beane decides to trade Barry Zito, he actually creates stability in the rotation for the next three seasons with Harden, Haren, Loaiza and Blanton locked up. All for much less than it would cost to have Zito in the rotation this year and beyond (they save at least $1.5 million this year and who knows how much once Zito had hit the open market).

Now, say the A's trade Zito to Arizona and gets Jackson and Quentin. And then they use available money to sign a Garciaparra or Thomas to DH. The rotation doesn't lose much with the loss of Zito and the addition of Loaiza. If Beane can get one of those superb young bats, this team winds up becoming an even bigger monster for years to come while also challenging the AL elite this year.

The A's are then left with a battle for the fifth starter with Saarloos, Kennedy, Rheinecker and Meyer.

Or, if Beane decides to keep Zito for the season, I'll stick to my initial reaction and say that the A's would then have the best rotation in baseball. By a wide margin.

And it's the front office's job to set the team up to be in the driver's seat. That's exactly what Beane has done with this move. There's a chance Loaiza struggles again this year as he did in 2004, but given the foul territory and the fine defense behind him, I don't anticipate that he will.

Believe me, Barry Zito is one of my favorites with the Athletics, but I'm all for anything that is going to improve the organization. Even if it means trading my favorites.