Barry Zito Could Plug A Hole In Mets’ Rotation

There are already over 150 players who filed for free agency, but one who could be an interesting fit for the New York Mets might be Barry Zito.

If given the choice of trying to fill a back-of-the-rotation hole between Johan Santana and Zito, I would make a run at Zito, even though he had a miserable 5-11 record and 5.74 ERA in 2013 for the simple reason he is healty.

ZITO: Worth thinking about.

ZITO: Worth thinking about.

Zito, at 35, obviously has seen better days, but he is one year removed from going 15-8 with a 4.15 ERA while making 32 starts in 2012. He made 25 starts last season.

Instead of picking up an $18 million option for 2014, the San Francisco Giants will give him a $7.7 million buyout. To get Zito, the Mets wouldn’t have to spend close to either figure.

Zito didn’t live up to the expectations of his seven-year, $126-million contract with the Giants, but he did do this: for the most part remained healthy; made at least 25 starts in all but one season; and worked at least 180 innings in all but two.

He only went 63-80 with a 4.62 ERA, but was always a team player who willingly worked out of the bullpen when the Giants opted to go with their younger options. He always took the ball, which is what the Mets need with the holes left by the Matt Harvey and Jenrry Mejia injuries.

General manager Sandy Alderson has a familiarity with Zito from his time in Oakland, and the veteran left-hander fills a definite need for the Mets, who lack two starters in the back end of their rotation until Rafael Montero or Jacob deGrom are ready to be promoted.

Citi Field’s vast outfield would accommodate the fly ball pitcher, and more importantly, he will be able to eat innings and be a positive influence to the Mets’ younger pitchers.

No, the Mets wouldn’t have to go overboard on a contract, instead, give him one loaded with incentives such as games started and innings pitched. In 14 seasons, he has averaged 34 starts and 206 innings pitched, while going 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA. His career WHIP is 1.334. The Mets would have killed for that stat line last season.

Alderson stated the Mets will prepare to not have Harvey, and doing so requires they plug the back end of their rotation with an innings eater. Is Zito somebody the Mets can build around? No. But, he is a pitcher who can fill an obvious void and likely won’t be a liability in doing so.

Plus, his unselfishness can enable the Mets to use him in long relief or a spot starter until their minor league options are ready.

The Mets say they won’t spend lavishly in the market and aren’t interested in an injury reclamation project. Zito can fill their void with a one-year deal plus an option. It’s a no-lose situation for the Mets, who weren’t going to go after a big name. Remember, in filling this hole, don’t look at the attractive names the Mets wouldn’t get anyway, but who is available they can sign to immediately help them.

LATER TODAY:  Free agent options within the NL East the Mets might consider.

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