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Happy holidays, and all that.

Anyway, there's no better time than right now to give you a head's up on what's going on for the next four weeks. Bright and early tomorrow morning some friends and I are going on a trip, and I won't be back until January 20th or so. Don't fret, though - I wouldn't dare leave this place alone for that long, so I've chased down some bitchin' pinch-bloggers who've graciously volunteered to help fill in the void. They are, in no particular order:

-Deanna, of Marinerds. Those of you who've been around since the summer will remember that she helped out for a few days in August, and is totally awesome.

-Steve Nelson, of the late Mariners Wheelhouse. Steve was one of the earliest members of the Mariner blogosphere, and the Wheelhouse was a daily read for as long as it was active.

-Trent Taylor, who had his own hilariously named blog a few years ago before he gave it up and it got taken over, presumably by its namesake. Trent then became a regular writer on Leone For Third and Lookout Landing before his day job got in the way, so long-time readers should remember who he is.

Those three are pretty much going to be running the place for the next month or so, so be nice. Since I'll only be able to pop in for a second from Internet cafes every few days, I've given them full admin capabilities, and they're not afraid to use them. Let that be a warning to those of you who love to extol the many virtues of partisan politics or Rene Rivera.

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By the way, as a final topic before I start packing, yeah, I'm aware of the Barry Zito rumors, and yeah, I'm nervous. Okay, on the one hand he'd make this team a few wins better by replacing Cha Baek, but on the other he's going to command 6+ years and ~$100m+, which is a top-tier commitment for a guy who isn't a top-tier pitcher. This is probably best examined with a classic pro/con list, which I'll attempt pretty much off the top of my head:

Pro:

  • Instantly makes the 2007 team better, making them legitimate contenders in a weak division.

  • Zito is great for the park, as he's a flyball pitcher against whom managers refuse to play lefties.

  • Only 28, with no history of arm trouble and at least 34 starts for six consecutive seasons.

  • Infield fly and line drive rates suggest ability to induce weaker contact than the average pitcher.

  • No evident career home/road splits.

  • Puts Seattle back on the map as a potential destination for top free agent talent.

  • Gets people more excited for the season to start.

  • Routinely beats his FIP/xFIP figures.

  • Isn't Joel Pineiro.

Con:

  • Not an ace; occupies a tier below the Santanas and Halladays, and may not even be one of the top five starters in the division.

  • Strikeout rate has declined substantially from early career peak (16.1% in 2006, 22.7% in 2001). Trend supported by the subjective observation that his velocity is lower than it used to be.

  • Set a career-high for walks in 2006.

  • Leaving Oakland's foul territory will cost him outs.

  • Sub-4 2006 ERA due in large part to flukishly high rate of stranded runners, which isn't a repeatable skill.

  • Rarely do pitchers maintain a stable level of performance for six consecutive seasons. Particularly the ones who aren't aces.

  • Both Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson saw similar workloads and similar declines in strikeout rate in Oakland before, and soon after leaving they ran into arm trouble.

  • Signing Zito and unloading Sexson/Beltre to make room is basically a lateral move on the field with an enormous financial commitment.

  • Signing Zito and not unloading Sexson/Beltre to make room means ownership was willing to go higher the whole time, calling into question why they set a strict budget when better players were available both this offseason and in winters past.

  • More likely to be an albatross at the end of his contract than a valuable player.

That just about does it. Feel free to fill in anything I might've missed.

Signing Barry Zito to a $100m+/6yr+ contract would represent the triumph of a win-now mentality over long-term sensibility in the front office. This organization's steadfast refusal to go over four years for any pitcher in the past has been one of its few philosophies I supported, and for those guys to consider violating their own rule now to sign someone who isn't even a #1 starter reeks of desperation. Granted, yeah, it'd make me more excited about the team's chances next season, but playing for the current without an eye for the future is how you wind up with teams like the 2001 Orioles or 2004 Mariners. Not that Zito's a guarantee to fall on his face, but who the hell knows what's going to happen in four, five, or six years? Or, as another way of putting it, if the 2004-2006 Zito isn't a $16m+ pitcher, why should we expect the 2007-2012 Zito to be a $16m+ pitcher? Pitchers aren't hitters; they don't hit their prime at 27-29. Zito's been around for six and a half seasons, and he's not getting any better. If the Mariners offer him the money he wants, they'll be doing so because they believe the 2006 Barry Zito is worth it, which he isn't.

I don't think signing Zito would be the colossal, unmitigated disaster I thought it'd be a few months ago, but it still wouldn't be smart, particularly if it resulted in other high-priced non-Washburn players getting jettisoned. The odds of any six-year commitment looking good by the end are slim, and when said contract begins with the player in question already performing worse than he used to, well, that's not a good recipe for success.

Barry Zito's neat and all, but as much as I hate raining on what most people think should be a parade, he doesn't deserve what he wants. Maybe - maybe - it'd be justifiable if he were the last piece of the puzzle, but the only reason he'd even make the 2007 Mariners a contender is because the division blows, and that's a bad place to start.

You overpay for A-grade top talent. Barry Zito doesn't fit the bill.

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With that, I'm (almost) gone. Be good, and don't make a mess.