Billy Beane is denying that he will trade Barry Zito. That, in and of itself, means nothing, as Beane always denies trade rumors. So for those of you who haven't learned to comprehend the Beanean language, here is a quick translation guide to Billy Beane trade rumor denials:
The emotional denial
If Beane gets angry or laughs at a trade rumor, the rumor has no teeth at all.
Example: the recent Chavez-to-the-White-Sox rumor. Beane was annoyed by the very idea, and called the rumor "b&!!s^%#".
The calm, rational denial
If Beane calmly and rationally denies a specific rumor, it means he isn't opposed to the idea of trading the guy, but no one will offer anything close to what he wants.
Example: the Zito denial. From the Sporting News:
"Barry's pitched well, he really has," Beane told The Sporting News on Thursday. "I need him. I'm not thinking about trading him."
The evasive denial
If Beane answers the question by not answering the question, then there is some shopping going on.
Example: the Byrnes rumors in the off-season. Asked at Fan Fest about trading Byrnes, Beane's response was that Byrnes is currently on the A's roster.
The denial denial
If Beane denies that he even comments on trade rumors at all (which obviously isn't true), or simply refuses to answer the question in any form, then something is really close to happening.
I'm glad that Billy Beane is holding out on trading Zito for now. With every strong outing Zito makes, he increases his value. I think he's as good as he's ever been, if not better. His slider and sinker give him more ways to get a batter out than he had before.
One disastrous outing in Tampa early in the year inflated his ERA, and combined with his bad year last year, has given people the perception that Zito has lost it. Zito has had to pitch very well ever since to bring that ERA down to respectable (4.41). Take that game out, though, and his ERA is 3.68.
Beane doesn't need to trade into that perception. That perception will only return a handful of average players. The A's don't really need any more average players. After drafting Cliff Pennington, presumably to be the A's second baseman of the future, they have young guys in the organization who can be average players at nearly every position. That's what the Moneyball college-only risk-minimizing strategy has yielded. And if Beane wants some more cheap, average players, he can trade Byrnes or Durazo.
What the A's really need now is a young superstar. I think Beane recognizes that, and that's why the A's drafted many high-school players this year. They need a home run or two, not just a basketful of singles, even if it means striking out more often.
Zito is the only trading chip they have who can possibly land a player like that. There's no point in trading Zito unless you get a great, young player in return. Apparently, nobody is willing to give up that kind of player in June, but as the July trading deadline approaches, the contending teams might be a little more desperate.