Can Barry Zito Return to Oakland?

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Over the past few weeks several reporters and Barry Zito himself (in an interview with 95.7) have stated that 2015 will mark the return of Barry Zito to major league baseball. If Barry Zito is to return, it will mark his 15th season at the major league level and his first season not playing for a bay area team. Unless, of course, Billy Beane has a trick up his sleeve and signs the leftie all-star for the season.

Beane has a knack for grabbing pitchers at the end of their career and turning them into powerhouses. Bartolo Colon and Scott Kazmir were both all-stars wearing green and gold and were, by many, deemed past their prime. Having spent his entire career in the bay area, seven seasons with both the Athletics and the Giant’s, Zito may be inclined to pitch at the coliseum once again and Beane may be inclined to let him.

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Zito, though, would be a gamble. Since leaving the Oakland Athletics, he has not had a single season ERA under 4 and has actually had three seasons over 5. Further, of the seven seasons he played for that other team across the bay, he only had one winning season, going for an all time low of .313 in his final season in 2013. At 37 years old, will he be able to revive the magic of his early A’s years? With the Athletics, Zito was an amazing pitcher having his worst year in 2004 when he went 11-11 with a 4.48 ERA. Taking out that one bad year, which would be enviable by many pitcher standards, Zito had a combined ERA of 3.32 and had a .584 win record. Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt when you consider that his numbers post A’s combined for a 4.8 ERA and .435 win percentage.

Maybe it’s the park, maybe it’s the coaches or maybe it’s an aging arm that hit its peak in Oakland, cashed in on the success in San Francisco and can only hope to be average at best in the future. That’s where this becomes a gamble. With Kazmir’s struggles towards the end of 2014, uncertainty of the quality of Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin coming off of Tommy John surgery and the loss of Jason Hammel and Jon Lester, Beane will surely be looking to enhance his starting rotation depth. Is it worth taking a look at Zito for a cheap, one or two year contract just for a safety net? He’s made all the money he’ll ever need to make (nearly $140 million) and, in my opinion, just wants to play baseball. If Beane were to sign him for a couple of million a year and he stunk like the Coliseum sewage, no big loss and if he comes back and lights the game on fire like Kazmir did in 2014, Beane is back to being a genius GM. Pretty good cost/benefit ratio, if you ask me.

The final question, which won’t even cross Beane’s mind, is if the fans will welcome Zito back into the fold. He did leave the A’s to go across the bridge which leaves a sour taste for some fans but, in honesty, the A’s weren’t going to offer him $119 Million for seven years. On the other hand, many A’s fans would probably have a “welcome home” attitude towards him. Fans also can’t forget that he now has world series pedigree and took down Justin Verlander in game 1 when no A’s pitcher could.

I’ve said it a million times, no move Beane makes surprises me. I don’t anticipate him making an offer to Zito and it won’t shock me if he does. He could sign him for $2 million a year or for $10 million. He could sign him for the bullpen or convert him to shortstop. When it comes to the off season, no possibility regardless of absurdity is off the table for Billy Beane. I’m interested to hear what the fans think. Do you think Beane should make a grab for Zito? What would your conditions be?

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