The courtship for Billy Beane's prized possession is about to begin. Monday morning in Dallas, Billy Beane will walk into the GM meetings and he will likely be approached by many, many teams about the availability of Barry Zito.
Zito is available, make no mistake about it. But he will only be moved if someone offers a deal that Beane can't refuse.
The possible suitors include:
Baltimore - Rumor had it that either Mulder or Hudson came very close to winding up in Baltimore last offseason. Perhaps the Orioles would be more willing to part with some of their young pitching like Bedard or Maine. Of course, this would likely mean the A's would then have to go the free agent route for the hitter.
Arizona - Arizona is an interesting option. They have young hitters like Jackson that could be right down Billy Beane's desire. They're young and cheap and they would be around for a while.
New York Mets - Lastings Milledge would definitely be someone that Billy Beane would require in return for Zito. But it could be worth the Mets while to add Zito, especially with Rick Peterson as their pitching coach.
Chicago Cubs - The Cubs have a lot of good young pitching in their system. But the A's need a hitter. Again, like the Orioles, I wouldn't doubt seeing Beane move Zito for more young, cheap pitching and then sign a Frank Thomas or Nomar Garciaparra to a one or two year deal.
Toronto Blue Jays - Don't assume that Vernon Wells is in play here because he probably isn't. The Blue Jays would only get involved in this if A.J. Burnett signs with the Cardinals, as has been rumored to be close to happening.
Boston - This would probably wind up being a three-way deal with Manny winding up somewhere else. Unless of course Boston was willing to give the A's Lester and Youkilis.
Texas - Kevin Mench and Alfonso Soriano are being bandied about by those who don't really understand the A's. Mench is a good player, but he is also greatly helped by his home ballpark. Don't think that Billy Beane doesn't know that. Soriano also doesn't fit the A's profile.
Los Angeles - Who knows, with the signing of Rafael Furcal, perhaps the Dodgers decide to move Jeff Kent? Although the more likely target seems to be Milton Bradley.
Where do I think Zito will go? Who knows? There may be another team or two to spring up and get in on the sweepstakes. But if I had to guess mostly likely candidates, to me Arizona and Chicago seem well-stocked in their farm teams.
On the other hand, I honestly believe that Billy Beane might shock us and trade Zito for young pitching. Beane believes that you can never have enough pitching.
He can then go out and sign one of the other remaining bats on the free agent market to plug that hole.
Then again, he doesn't have to deal him at all. And that's the best part about this upcoming week. Beane is in the driver's seat.