When Barry Met Barry 

Well, well, well. Lookee here. The Giants have confounded everyone by finally overpaying in a grand royal way for a top-line free agent. Welcome, Barry Zito.

ESPN's Peter Gammons says the contract is seven years, $126 million, which averages to $18 mil a year. The little box next to that story, if you don't feel like clicking through, calls Zito "Mr. Dependable."

Here's what the Giants are getting: a durable pitcher whose fastball rarely approaches 90 MPH and whose strikeout rate is slowly declining. He gives up a lot of fly balls, which is probably OK in the NL West with Mays Field, Petco Park, and Dodger Stadium all fly-ball-friendly. If his skills are actually in decline, pitching in the National League will help mask that decline to some extent.

The conventional wisdom, if you gather it all up from various corners of the Internet and mush it into a big bland ball of consensus, is that Zito will be a pretty good pitcher for a while, but not $18 M-a-year worth of good. The Giants have made a big bold statement, but their voice sounds suspiciously like that of someone who has been sucking on a nitrous oxide tank. This is not a rational development. It may end up working, crazy-like-a-fox-like, but a lot of things have to go right.

And so: I am neither anguished nor thrilled. A 1-2 punch of Cain and Zito will be nice to have in Zito's prime years. My main worry is that the Giants will have little or no fiscal room to move for offense, which given the state of their farm system, they'll have to buy at market rates for the foreseeable future.

They may need more offense in 2007, too -- yesterday's news is that the feds now have access to MLB's drug-testing data, which could throw more legal hurdles in front of Barry Bonds. Place your bets now on whether Barry (Bonds, not Zito) spends more days in left field or in court in 2007. Could this be why his contract has mysteriously taken so long to hash out?

If things fall apart and Bonds isn't signed for 2007, his money -- a reported $16 million -- will go to Zito, and I assume the Giants will have a few extra million to find more offense. They're damn sure going to need it. With Zito on board, look for one of the Giants' young lefties to become January's hottest trade bait.

I'll add details of the Zito contract as they come in.


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