Time for San Francisco Giants to deal Barry Zito while he’s hot 

Barry Zito has been terrific since his return to the disabled list, but Giants GM Brian Sabean would be wise to trade him now while he can.
  • Barry Zito has been terrific since his return to the disabled list, but Giants GM Brian Sabean would be wise to trade him now while he can.

The Giants should trade Barry Zito now. They’ll never have a better opportunity.

Zito has pitched very well since coming off the disabled list. That might fool a contending team that is desperate for pitching help, but we’ve seen similar streaks by Zito that haven’t lasted.

Remember April 2010? He had an ERA under 2.00. And do you remember the rest of the season? Not so good. He reverted to form, with his ERA rising to 4.15 and his win-loss record declining to 9-14, and was left off the postseason roster.

If the Giants don’t trade Zito while they have a chance, the same thing will happen this year. His problem is that he has very little room for error. With a fastball that seldom reaches even the high 80s, he has to be very fine with his pitches. When he’s confident and throwing strikes, he’s effective, but he often loses his confidence, starts nibbling and walking hitters and then gives up home runs.

Before he falls into that pattern again, the Giants should unload him.

They will still have to pay some of his outrageous $18 million a year contract that runs through 2013, but even getting rid of part of that contract will give some payroll relief.

It might be enough, in fact, to rent Carlos Beltran for a half season.

The Mets will be dealing because they’ve already fallen 11 games behind division-leading Philadelphia in the NL East and 7½ behind Atlanta, which will probably be the wild card in the playoffs.

The contracts of both Beltran and shortstop Jose Reyes expire at the end of the season, so there’s no reason to hang on to them.

Beltran is getting $18.5 million a year, but if the Giants can dump Zito, they could afford to pay the remainder of his contract.

Beltran is the kind of middle-of-the-lineup hitter the Giants need, as well as being an outstanding outfielder.

Nate Schierholtz has hit for average and power lately, but he’s never been that kind of hitter before and I’m skeptical his surge will continue. Beltran is a much more reliable choice to team with the rejuvenated Pablo Sandoval.

Beltran’s contract would come off the books at the end of the season, so if the Giants have most of Zito’s contract off, they’d have only two of Brian Sabean’s mistakes still on the payroll for 2012: Aaron Rowand and Aubrey Huff.

Rowand signed a five-year, $60 million contract before the 2008 season and it was a mistake from the moment he signed it.

Huff got a two-year contract at $10 million a year and has been slump-ridden all season. That wasn’t hard to predict. Huff had an outstanding year last season, but it was his first in the National League. Now, pitchers know him better and they’re getting him out with consistency.

So now, Sabean has to start thinking of next year as well as this one.

If he can trade Zito and get part of his salary off the books, he’ll have much more flexibility next year. Do it quickly, Brian, before Zito reverts to form.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at glenndickey36@gmail.com.

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Glenn Dickey

Glenn Dickey

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