The next A's game I have tickets for is Saturday. As it turns out, this may turn out to be Barry Zito's last game in an A's uniform. I'll have to remember to give him a standing ovation when he comes off the field, even if he gives up 10 runs in the first inning. Zito has provided a lot of viewing pleasure over the years, and I want to be sure to thank him.
This is relevant because rumors are flying around that Billy Beane is shopping Zito again. And of course, that means that the neverending Zito-for-Lastings Milledge rumors are back, too. I'm not going to write anything about it myself. I've already speculated about it, let's see...1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 times already, and you know what they always say, eleven times is enough.
If you want more Zito/Milledge speculation, let me point you to MetsBlog, where Matthew Cerrone discusses the idea with ESPN's Buster Olney. The words "Lastings" and "Milledge" shall not pass through my keyboard again until we are certain the trade will or will not happen. It's all up to Omar Minaya.
Olney thinks that Beane would also be willing to go for Aaron Heilman instead, which I think is ridiculous. Heilman is only six months younger than Zito, and he's accomplished almost nothing in comparison. Olney mentioned Heilman's "upside", but Heilman is running out of time for upside. His ERA is 4.47. In a weaker league. As a reliever. If Heilman is the return, I'd much rather keep Zito, try to win this year, and get two draft picks in what is supposed to be a very strong draft class.
The bigger question is a philosophical one: should the A's trade Zito at all, when they're still tied for first place with 62 games remaining? Is there any way they could get anything for Zito that wouldn't decrease their chances of winning the division this year?
It's an interesting question. The A's upper farm system is so barren, that it's hard to imagine the A's getting much better than they are now in the next couple of years. This may be there best chance to win a division for a while. On the other hand, Zito is probably their best, or only, tool they have to restock the upper levels of the farm system with some talent.
Perhaps the Zito dilemma shouldn't be viewed in a vacuum. There are ways Beane can improve the A's in other areas to make up for the loss of Zito, and give the A's a chance to compete this year and next. For example, I'd like to see the A's go out and nab a third baseman like Joe Randa, just so they can let Eric Chavez hit the DL and fix his tendonitis with rest. Randa, mediocre as he is, would still easily improve on the .100 batting average that both Chavez and Antonio Perez are putting up there right now. Then maybe you have a healthy Chavez for September.