05/07/2002 12:29 pm ET
Zito, A's agree to contract extension
Deal will take A's lefty through arbitration years
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Barry Zito has joined the ranks of Oakland's young stars with long-term security.
The A's left-hander told MLB.com late Monday night that he had agreed to a deal that would keep him in Oakland for the next four or five years, and the A's confirmed it in a press release Tuesday, announcing that the parties had agreed to an extension through the 2005 season with a club option for 2006.
Zito was previously under contract only through the 2002 season, but the extension will take him through his arbitration years. The initial portion of the deal, excluding incentives, is said to be worth more than $18 million.
"I know I'm taking a little bit of a pay cut now just to stay and have the security, but that's cool," said Zito. "It's totally worth it to know that I'm gonna be with these guys for a long time, because we've got an awesome team."
Actually, Zito said before Tuesday's game he didn't really know how much the deal was worth -- and the money wasn't at the top of his mind.
"I have as many clothes as I can wear. I have a truck that I like. And I have a place to live," he said. "What's nice is the peace of mind."
That peace of mind comes from the fact that Zito doesn't have to concern himself with contract issues for a long time -- specifically, he knows now he'll never have to go to salary arbitration.
"Arbitration's a nasty thing," Zito said. "If you go there, yeah, you might get some bigger dollars. But I don't want to sit there and have Billy Beane, a guy I see in the weight room every day, and whoever the lawyers are sit there and rip me and tell me how bad I am, ask me why I don't match up to Joe Schmoe who's making this much. That can't be good."
Zito is the last in a long line of Oakland's young stars wrapped up through arbitration, part of Oakland's plan to keep the talent around while having more control over payroll costs.
"For us to manage some costs and have some predictability, we have to be somewhat proactive," A's general manager Billy Beane said. "We're fortunately at the point now where a number of guys are signed up through their arbitration years."
Zito is represented by Arn Tellem, who had been talking with Beane about a new deal for Zito since early spring.
Tellem did not return phone calls placed Monday requesting comment.
Oakland's other two big-ticket pitching stars, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson, are signed through 2004 and 2005, respectively, with the club holding options for an additional year on each contract.
"It's never easy," Beane said of the Zito deal, "but we had some sort of a template with those two guys."
With all three wrapped up to long-term deals, the A's would seem to be in good position to contend for several years to come.
"It's just a good feeling knowing that the nucleus of our starting rotation will be here a while," A's Manager Art Howe said. "We've got a chance to do some special things here."
Said Zito: "It's exciting because now we're sure that we'll all be together for a while. And not just the pitching staff. We've got a lot of young guys locked up."
Among those signed beyond 2002 are third baseman Eric Chavez (signed through 2004), outfielder Jermaine Dye (2004, with a mutual option for 2005), outfielder Terrence Long (2005), shortstop Miguel Tejada (2003) and catcher Ramon Hernandez (2005).
Zito, Oakland's first-round pick in 1999, made his big-league debut in 2000 and went 7-4 with a 2.72 ERA in 14 starts. He went 17-8 with a 3.49 ERA last season, but that was after going 6-7 with a 5.01 ERA in his first 22 starts -- he went 11-1 with a 1.32 ERA over his last 13 outings. He was named the American League's Pitcher of the Month for August and September.
Mychael Urban covers the Oakland A's for MLB.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Regional writer John Schlegel contributed to this story, which was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.