Mets Officially in Zito Sweepstakes
by: Patrick Hickey, Jr. | Senior Writer - NY Sports Day | Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Many people expect friends and family over their homes during this time of the year. Barry Zito and his agent have other things in mind.

As of Tuesday, the Mets have become an active participant in the 2006-07 Barry Zito sweepstakes, as general manager Omar Minaya and his staff traveled to Southern California to meet with the lefty pitcher in an effort to bolster a pitching staff that will be without Pedro Martinez for almost half of next season.

While the Mets don’t plan on matching the $100 million dollars the Rangers are allegedly offering the 2002 Cy Young Award winner, they are supposedly offering him a five-year $73 million dollar contract that is similar in structure to the contract they would have offered Roy Oswalt if the Astros and Mets would have been able to come to an agreement regarding a trade for the pitcher this past summer.

As well, the Mets have a few aces in their pockets that may lure the former first-round pick to Queens, including Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, who helped Zito break into the league and David Wright, who has been trying to convince him to come to Flushing. In addition, the fact that the entire national league is unfamiliar with Zito’s curveball may also give the Mets a better shot at signing him than the Rangers, but unfortunately for Minaya and New York, Texas isn’t the only team looking to sign Zito.

Still feeling the loss of Jason Schmidt, who recently signed with the Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants seem just as determined as the Mets in signing the free agent. Even Zito joked about signing with a National League team after spending his entire career with the A’s, making a deal with the Giants or the Mets a bigger possibility.

“I do have a pretty sweet swing that I haven’t been able to feature consistently in the American League,” Zito told the San Fransico Chronicle a few days ago. “So it would be nice to getmore AB’s to show up [Tim] Hudson) and [Mark] Mulder.”

While many fans believe that signing Zito is crucial if the Mets want to take the NL East again next season, Minaya and his staff haven’t made signing Zito their top priority with pitchers like Jeff Suppan, Brad Radke and Mark Mulder still free agents and still believe that they have enough pitching depth to get by without him. Nevertheless, Minaya believes they must atleast make an attempt to sign him regardless.

"We're definitely going to talk to his agent,” Minaya told MLB.com. “But if it doesn't make sense, we're comfortable with our starting pitching and our overall pitching."