Posted: Monday December 4, 2006 4:37PM; Updated: Tuesday December 5, 2006 9:33AM
Mets make play for Zito, try to beat Texas
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The Mets made their push to sign Barry Zito Monday night in a lengthy meeting with Zito's agent, Scott Boras, and know they have to beat the ultra-aggressive Rangers for the former Cy Young winner. Texas signed Vicente Padilla for $34 million over three years Monday evening but there's no evidence they've backed off Zito.
The Mets are saying they aren't desperate for Zito after re-signing Tom Glavine, but they did try for Daisuke Matsuzaka and understand the importance of an ace. And one competing executive said of the Mets, "I think they want him more than they're letting on"
The general perception is that the Zito Derby will come down to the Rangers and Mets, with Texas possibly offering more years/money and the chance to stay in the American League, and the Mets offering a chance to win sooner and New York, a city friends say intrigues Zito. However, the Mets could actually wind up in a battle with a few more teams.
The Angels and Mariners are among others believed to have expressed some interest. "If he has an arm, you can bet we've looked into it," Mariners GM Bill Bavasi said. As for the Angels, if they are going hard for Zito, it's been an incredibly stealthy maneuver thus far. But as we've said, Moreno hasn't as yet fulfilled his wish to do something "major."
Mets officials are sending out signals that they don't intend to meet the asking price, which is believed to be $105 million over seven years, and have suggested they are concerned about giving any pitcher more than five years, even one with no history of injuries such as Zito. While some might question whether Zito would consider a hitters haven such as Ameriquest Field, Zito is 11-1 lifetime there with a very palatable 3.75 ERA, and he's 41-16 lifetime vs. the AL West.
The Mets expect to be outbid by the Rangers, who have a history of winning bidding wars for Boras clients (i.e. Alex Rodriguez and Chan Ho Park five years ago). But a couple Mets officials privately questioned whether Zito would opt for Arlington, Texas over New York City.
The Angels could be an interesting alternative if they enter the bidding in earnest. Zito is from Southern California (San Diego area), his parents live in the Los Angeles area (near Glendale), he's enjoyed great success in the AL West and perhaps he'd also like the chance to beat Oakland. An executive with one of the teams competing for Zito said he thought the Angels had indeed met with Boras at one point, but their chase has mostly gone under the radar . It's possible their pursuit may depend on their ability to line up a trade for one of their talented incumbent pitchers, the type of contingency they've never pulled off in recent years.
The Yankees and Dodgers are believed to have checked on Zito, but the Dodgers have been focusing on two other free-agent pitchers, Jason Schmidt and Greg Maddux, and the Yankees are more likely to wait for Andy Pettitte. Two of Zito's friends have said he'd love to play for the Yankees, the one team he's had trouble beating. But the Yankees are not expected to go beyond $13-14 million for Zito, so he'd probably have to consider providing a deep discount if he really wants to play for them over the Mets, Rangers, Angels and Mariners.