Zito's Giants deal worth about $18M per year

Updated: December 29, 2006, 12:37 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Bay Area's other Barry is the new face of the San Francisco Giants -- now and well into the future.

$100 million men
Barry Zito

Barry Zito's reported deal of seven years and $126 million with the Giants would tie Vernon Wells' new deal as the sixth richest in the history of the sport. Figures are from player and management sources and include all guaranteed income but not income from potential incentive bonuses. There is no distinction for money deferred without interest.
Vote: Did the Giants overpay?

Player, club Years Total
Alex Rodriguez, TEX-NYY 2001-10 $252M
Derek Jeter, NYY 2001-10 $189M
Manny Ramirez, BOS 2001-08 $160M
Todd Helton, COL 2003-11 $141.5M
Alfonso Soriano, CHC 2007-14 $136M
Barry Zito, SFG 2007-13 $126M
Vernon Wells, TOR 2008-14 $126M
Mike Hampton, COL-ATL 2001-08 $121M
Jason Giambi, NYY 2002-08 $120M
Carlos Beltran, NYM 2005-11 $119M
Ken Griffey Jr., CIN 2000-08 $116.5M
Kevin Brown, LAD-NYY 1999-05 $105M
Carlos Lee, HOU 2007-12 $100M
Albert Pujols, STL 2004-10 $100M

Barry Zito and the Giants reached a preliminary agreement on the largest pitcher contract in baseball history, a $126 million, seven-year deal. Zito joins the Giants three weeks after the club came to terms on a new $16 million, one-year contract with slugger Barry Bonds for a 15th season.

A source familiar with Zito's contract told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that the agreement includes an $18 million option for 2014 with a $7 million buyout that could increase the value to $137 million. The option would become guaranteed if Zito pitches 200 innings in 2013, 400 combined over 2012 and 2013 or 600 combined from 2011-13. Zito also has a full no-trade clause.

"We view Zito as a franchise player, and we'll certainly need one when Bonds goes," a Giants source told The San Francisco Chronicle.

Zito's father, Joe, and Zito's publicist, Kathy Jacobson, confirmed the deal, while the Giants were waiting for Zito to take a physical Friday before making things official. San Francisco planned to formally introduce the three-time All-Star sometime next week.

"I think it's a very, very good fit," Joe Zito said. "Truly, I am respectful of the owners who came forward and would believe in Barry to such a degree that they would go this far. I am profoundly respectful of that. He is truly happy."

The deal ties for the sixth largest overall, matching the $126 million, seven-year extension agreed to this month by Toronto and center fielder Vernon Wells.

"It's a huge piece of the puzzle as far as solidifying our rotation," fellow Giants lefty starter Noah Lowry said. "We have a couple of No. 1-caliber pitchers. I'm obviously going to be able to learn from him. I think the seasons as long as they are and as grueling as they can be, he hasn't missed a start and that says a lot about the guy and his durability."

The Giants, who missed the playoffs the past three seasons, were looking for someone to fill the void left when ace Jason Schmidt departed earlier this month for the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

"A lot of money," Zito's former Oakland teammate Mark Ellis said. "I was shocked. That's great for him. That's a good place for him. There couldn't be a better fit I don't think. Obviously, we wanted him in Oakland."

Chat: Rob Neyer's take
Rob Neyer
The only thing this deal does is make the Giants look ridiculous. Granted, Zito's ERA will get a boost from the National League and the Giants' home ballpark. And this one isn't as dumb as the Mike Hampton deal with the Rockies. But based on the facts at hand, this looks to me like one of the dumber free-agent signings ever. Zito just isn't very good. And if he's worth $18 million per season, Santana's worth $25 million.

• To read the full transcript of Rob Neyer's chat, click here. Insider

Jerry Crasnick's take
Keith Law's take Insider
Fantasy take Insider

Giants general manager Brian Sabean had said the team had money to spend for a top pitcher, and Bonds agreed to defer some of the money from his new contract to give the team flexibility to improve the roster. Sabean never said how much money the Giants had to spend, but Zito's contract far surpasses the $90 million, five-year contract the club gave to Bonds after his record-setting 2001 season.

The Giants' top brass -- including owner Peter Magowan, executive vice president Larry Baer, Sabean and new manager Bruce Bochy -- had a long dinner with Zito and his agent, Scott Boras, at the posh Peninsula hotel in Beverly Hills on Nov. 26. The sides hit it off.

Previously, the largest contract for a pitcher was Mike Hampton's $121 million, eight-year deal with the Colorado Rockies before the 2001 season. Kevin Brown received a $105 million deal from 1999-2005. Both players have dealt with injury problems and struggled, with Brown going 72-45 during his contract and Hampton posting a 53-48 record so far.

Texas, Seattle and the New York Mets also pursued Zito, the top available pitcher on the free-agent market. The 28-year-old left-hander spent the last seven seasons across San Francisco Bay pitching with the Athletics, and staying in the area appeared to be a factor in his decision.

"We gave it our best shot," Rangers owner Tom Hicks said in an e-mail to the AP. "He's a great pitcher and a fine young man. I wish him well and am glad he's out of the AL West."

Zito has been among the most durable pitchers in the majors, making 34 or more starts and throwing 210 or more innings in six straight seasons. He has never missed a start. His reliability and impressive offseason work ethic _ not to mention he already has a devoted fan base in the area -- was a big reason the Giants were willing to make such a big commitment, fully aware of the risks involved in doing so.

"We were not willing to go to the seven-year areas he said he had."
-- Mets GM Omar Minaya

Zito went 16-10 with a 3.83 ERA last season and has a 102-63 career record with a 3.55 ERA. He won the 2002 AL Cy Young Award after going 23-5.

"He's so young still, and he's so durable," Ellis said. "If I was a team going to give money to someone, it would be to him. I don't see anything wrong with Barry getting that much. Give money to someone who's going to go out there every fifth day."

Zito will lead a rotation that features Matt Cain, coming off a strong rookie season, lefty Noah Lowry and Matt Morris. The fifth spot is still to be determined, with several candidates in the mix.

"It takes a lot of pressure off two people, which I think is very important," Giants first baseman and outfielder Mark Sweeney said. "Matt Cain is one of them. Taking Jason Schmidt's spot is asking a lot. I think that would be pushing it a little bit, even though he's going to be our No. 1 for years, and I think the world of him. And also Matt Morris, who is going to bounce back. He put a lot on his shoulders.

"I think it does a lot of that. It adds to the flexibility of our staff, too. Having Noah Lowry third or fourth is pretty good."

As part of his agreement with the Giants, Zito will fund the construction of youth fields in the San Francisco area through his foundation. He also founded "Strikeouts for Troops" in 2005 to help wounded service members and their families.

Only Alex Rodriguez ($252 million), Derek Jeter ($189 million), Manny Ramirez ($160 million), Todd Helton ($141.5 million) and Alfonso Soriano ($136 million) have contracts with more guaranteed money.

Zito's is the 14th $100 million deal in baseball history and the fourth of the offseason following agreements by Soriano (Cubs), Wells and Carlos Lee ($100 million with Houston).

New York's initial offer was for about $75 million over five years, and the Mets were prepared to go somewhat higher in average salary but were wary of offering a longer deal. Texas had told Boras that it would withdraw its proposal if it wasn't accepted by the end of the week.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya spoke late last week to Boras, who told the GM that Zito had a seven-year deal on the table from another team.

"We were not willing to go to the seven-year areas he said he had," said Minaya, who conducted studies on the performances of pitchers with lengthy deals. "This is one guy who has been healthy, and we all wish him well. At the end of the day, the history ... I could not recommend to my ownership to go to seven guaranteed years."

Information from ESPN's Peter Gammons, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick and The Associated Press were used in this report.