Giants need to trim the roster fat — yes, that means Zito 

The Chicago Cubs did it this spring. So did the New York Mets.

While it’s not advisable for defending world champions to adopt the practices of lesser teams, it’s time for the Giants to consider following the Mets and Cubs down the road of shedding excess salary weight. And the baggage that goes with it.

Earlier this spring, the Mets released Oliver Perez, who’d gone 3-12 the last two seasons, without winning a game last year. The Mets will pay Perez $12 million in salary this year, but jettisoned him anyway.

The Cubs cut Silva after he’d lost six of his last eight 2010 starts and performed dismally this spring (a 10.90 ERA).
Nonetheless, Silva departed with the Cubs on the hook to him for $11 million in 2011 compensation.

You know where I’m headed: the case of the Giants and Barry Zito.

From June 2009 through May 16, 2010, Zito gave the Giants reason to hope for some of the Cy Young form touted when the Giants signed him in 2007. Over 31 starts, Zito went 15-8 with a 3.49 ERA, and his eight-inning, two-hit performance against the Cardinals on April 24 was brilliant.

Unfortunately, over his final 26 starts last season, Zito pitched his way to a 3-13 record and a 4.97 ERA that pushed him off the Giants’ postseason roster.

While Zito had a solid spring to win a spot in the Giants’ Opening Day rotation, he must stay on a very short leash as the 2011 season gets rolling. The Giants have no time for debating whether Zito deserves a regular turn.

Zito has yet to post an above-.500 record in four years with the Giants. His 40-57 mark (a 37 percent win percentage) has come while the Giants were one game under .500 overall. But those last 26 starts a year ago took Zito disappointment to a new level.

When the Giants most needed big-time performances, Zito couldn’t deliver. After Sept. 3, while the Giants rolled through a 17-10 run that pushed them past the Padres and propeled them onto a world championship run, Zito went 1-4 over six starts. In 2011, the Giants can’t afford to drag around this kind of weight. If Zito performs, then let him pitch. If he doesn’t, he and the three remaining contract years worth $57 million deserve the same fate as Perez and Silva.

 

Random thought

Just for fun: Could trading Zito to the New York Yankees be the answer? The Yankees are desperate for an established left-handed starter. The Giants could use any relief of any kind from Zito’s contract. So the Yankees don’t pay all of it. Half would be better than none at all.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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