By Mike Steffanos
There has been a lot of speculation that Billy Beane might be willing to deal his ace left-hander, despite the fact that Oakland is battling for a playoff birth. I was informed yesterday that there was a rumor that Beane might be willing to deal Barry Zito one-to-one for Lastings Milledge. I guess the thought behind it was that with Zito signing on with Scott Boras, the Oakland GM realizes he has no chance to hold onto his player, and wants to get something in return.
On his ESPN Insider Blog, Buster Olney feels that trading Milledge or Heilman for Zito might make sense:
Here are the reasons why it might make some sense for the Mets to package a deal around Aaron Heilman or Lastings Milledge for Barry Zito.
1. The addition of Zito helps the Mets' chances for winning the World Series.
2. If they trade Heilman, they can go out and add a middle reliever to take his spot, such as Roberto Hernandez. Trading Milledge won't affect their chances of winning this year.
3. They could conceivably re-sign Zito to a long-term deal after Zito becomes a free agent, although with Scott Boras representing Zito, the chances of that happening are diminished.
4. If Zito leaves and signs elsewhere, then the Mets would get two first-round picks as compensation for Zito, effectively helping to fill in the young talent gap created if Milledge or Heilman is dealt.
I'm still finding it kind of hard to believe that Billy Beane would take Milledge or Heilman for Zito. After all, he can keep him for the playoff run, try to resign him, and then take the two draft picks himself if he can't. It's extremely hard to justify to your fans why you traded away their ace pitcher in the middle of a tight pennant race unless you bring a "no brainer" package of talent back. To me, that would be both Milledge and Heilman, maybe more. And that's where I run into a problem.
If you give away 2 young and talented players for Zito, and then Boras takes him elsewhere after the season is over, 2 draft picks are not adequate compensation. You've already traded 2 young and talented players. Even if you beat the odds and both draft picks develop into the same caliber of players, you will still have to wait years to just break even on the transaction.
But wait, you say, Zito could be the final piece of the puzzle for a championship. He might well be, but he might also be yet another player that requires an adjustment period to succeed in New York. It's the rare player that comes to New York and excels immediately. Unfortunately, when you have a two-month rental player, you don't have the luxury of an adjustment period.
Look, if Zito could really be had for one young player, you'd have to consider it. If that's the case, though, the Mets have to be prepared to let him walk away in the off-season if they can't negotiate a deal that makes sense. Boras will know that the Mets have a gun to their head to keep him, and will take full advantage of that. Kris Benson was a recent example of a pitcher that cashed in because it would have been bad P.R. for the Mets to let him walk. You can't negotiate that way. We'll see how this plays out. Only a week away from the deadline, it's almost certain to be one of the more persistent rumors. MetsBlog and Hot Foot are your two best sources to keep up on all the latest.
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