Sports Print Edition Keeping a watch on Zito
BY DAVID LENNON
Newsday Staff Writer
July 27, 2006
The Mets have not given up in their pursuit of Barry Zito, and with top scout Russ Bove expected to be in Oakland this weekend to watch the former Cy Young Award winner face the Blue Jays, it's possible that a deal could be struck by Monday's non-waiver trade deadline.
To this point, the price for the 28-year-old lefthander has been too steep, with Athletics general manager Billy Beane demanding Lastings Milledge, Aaron Heilman and perhaps even a third prospect - possibly Brian Bannister or John Maine - in return.
Zito, who is 10-7 with a 3.52 ERA, will start Saturday against Toronto. With the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis apparently off the market, Zito is the Mets' clear-cut favorite, and GM Omar Minaya isn't ready to settle for Plan B just yet.
Beane has coveted Milledge since the Mets first discussed Zito during the winter, and it is unlikely he would agree to any package that does not include the 21-year-old outfielder. On the flip side, Zito is a free agent after this season and he has almost zero chance of returning to Oakland, especially after hiring agent Scott Boras, and that could prompt Beane to act by the end of this month.
The Mets, wary of another Scott Kazmir-type backlash, are reluctant to trade Milledge, who showed flashes of brilliance - in addition to some growing pains - during his month in the majors. Milledge batted .233 (20-for-86) with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 24 games with the Mets before returning to Triple-A Norfolk June 30.
Minaya is confident his pitching staff is deep enough for October, and with the Mets holding a double-digit lead in the NL East, getting there probably won't be a problem. But with the exception of Maine, who ran his scoreless streak to 17 innings with seven yesterday, the rotation looked shaky this week, and Pedro Martinez makes his first start in a month tomorrow night at Turner Field.