Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News seems to think it might be.
In a column he dropped on Thursday, Kawakami believes that the Giants can't risk their postseason spot — the team currently leads the NL wild card race — on the arm of a No. 4 pitcher with a 5.01 ERA who makes more than any hurler not named Sabathia, Santana or Zambrano.
"And the Giants have to very seriously consider trying to trade Zito to any suitable team that will take some of his money (Zito has a no-trade clause); or they have to think about releasing him in the off-season."
I can see the muck that Kawakami is trying to stir up here — and he does a good job of it, by the way — but the guillotine idea is actually pretty preposterous. There's no team out there that'd agree to take on Zito's salary, even at a discounted rate, and further, Zito has been bad this season ... but not bad enough to get an early boot.
As it stands, Zito is owed about $92 million more through the 2013 season. That's a pretty unthinkable number for anyone, let alone a fourth starter, but at this point it's a sunk cost and the Giants should aim to get any production they get from him. Zito has had plenty of bad performances this season, but he's also sprinkled in some impressive inning-eating wins in there, too — something he wasn't doing either of the previous two seasons.
No, he's not consistent like someone being paid $18 million a season should be, but as Kawakami points out, Zito's right in the middle of a ranking of the No. 4 starters on National League contenders.
If the Giants want to move Zito into the bullpen or want to roll the dice with him as a fifth starter while working the rotation to limit his starts, I think that'd be an acceptable move.
But at this point, it's not like the Giants have a strong enough bottom of the rotation to simply cut Zito a check and wish him well. Instead, they should act just like the days when we paid $3 for a cup at a college house party and drank until every beer cost 25 cents.
Yeah, there might be some collateral damage, but there's still value to be had and it's not like they've got anywhere else to go.