Barry Zito will reunite with the Oakland Athletics on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring camp, in a story broken by the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser:
Blast from the past: Barry Zito is going to sign a minor-league deal with the #Athletics and come to spring camp.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 17, 2015
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the details of the signing, with MLB.com's Jane Lee clarifying that his base salary is contingent on making the major league roster:
zito gets $1M base plus 175K in incentives on a's minor-league deal. @susanslusser 1st with agreement— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) February 17, 2015
Source says Barry Zito to make $1 million if on Major League roster.— Jane Lee (@JaneMLB) February 17, 2015
Zito apparently told Mychael Urban about the signing on Sunday:
BREAKING NEWS: Barry Zito re-joining #athletics: "I couldn't be happier to lace up the white spikes and throw the green and gold on my back"— Mychael Urban (@BigUrbSports) February 17, 2015
Says #BarryZito: "I am so grateful to have an opportunity 2 pitch again after a year away, & no better place than where it all started ..."— Mychael Urban (@BigUrbSports) February 17, 2015
#BarryZito cont.: "It couldn't be a better situation for me with this organization."— Mychael Urban (@BigUrbSports) February 17, 2015
Zito's signing was an immense surprise after the A's did not even send someone to watch him pitch at his February 3 showcase, according to CSN California's Joe Stiglich:
For those curious, I'm told #Athletics are not among teams watching Zito throw today.— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) February 3, 2015
Zito, 36, returns after departing Oakland after the 2006 season on a seven-year $126 million contract with the San Francisco Giants, including his 2014 buyout. Zito sat out the 2014 after struggling with the Giants, going 63-80 and making 197 starts with a 4.62 ERA. Zito's struggles were emblemized by being left off the Giants' 2010 postseason roster, though he did make three starts for the Giants in the 2012 postseason.
A realistic look at Zito's prospects
Zito played in Oakland for seven seasons, winning the 2002 American League Cy Young Award after finishing with a 23-5 record and 2.75 ERA. Overall with Oakland, Zito was 102-63 with a 3.55 ERA.
It's a reset button for Zito, however, who spent 2014 working with Ron Wolforth after finishing 2013 with a 5.74 ERA. Does that name sound familiar? It should:
In @sfchronicle story: Barry Zito has been working out with the trainer who directed the Scott Kazmir-aissance:http://t.co/1EIuoX9i2U— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 17, 2015
Zito faces long odds, however, given that the A's have acquired a boatload of pitching this offseason in the Jeff Samardzija and Josh Donaldson deals. We've penciled in Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, and Jesse Hahn as our top three starters, with Drew Pomeranz, Jesse Chavez, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, Chris Bassitt, and Arnold Leon all pitchers already on the 40-man roster that are in the mix.
Given the A's pitching depth, is Zito fighting for the fifth spot in the Oakland rotation or the Nashville rotation? Obviously he would probably be given an opportunity to pitch elsewhere if he was not going to make it, but all of the rostered candidates for the back of the bullpen can be freely optioned to Triple-A except for Jesse Chavez.
We will find out soon enough. A's pitchers and catchers report February 19.