Giants mailbag: Steep price for Zito?

Giants mailbag: Steep price for Zito?

Did the Giants overpay to get Barry Zito? No other team even offered him $100 million. Where did San Francisco come up with $126? Do you think a non-everyday player is worth that?
-- Kyle R., San Jose, Calif.

Proof is in the pitching. If Zito can collect victories in the high teens for, say, the next five years, then he'll be worth it. His salary was the going rate for a great pitcher, and the extra loot was a windfall, coming from MLB Advanced Media and Major League Baseball's sale of the Montreal Expos, allowing the payroll to jump from $85 to $95 million.

Are you kidding me with Zito? I like how the organization is so excited about this deal. He's good, but he's not the answer for success. I think he'll be traded, hopefully back to Oakland, within two years because he'll be tired of losing. He's an Athletic at heart, he'll return. What do you think?
-- Kyle B., Monterey, Calif.

Loyalties fade away quickly in baseball, and Zito now says his heart belongs in San Francisco. He may show interest in his former team and teammates, but once current Oakland players are gone, the A's will be relegated to a dark green spot in his brain, all but forgotten.

I looked at the tentative lineup and it looks good other than one glaring weakness: Is Ray Durham really the guy to "protect" Barry Bonds, and what happens when he falters or is injured?
-- Randy K., Jacksonville, Fla.

Legit question. Last season, Durham batted fifth in 86 games, had a personal-best 93 RBIs, has hit .335 with runners in scoring position since mid-2005 and tied Bonds with 26 homers in 2006. Maybe it was Bonds who protected Durham. If Durham's leg problems recur, someone else -- Randy Winn or Ryan Klesko, maybe -- must do well.

Are the Giants still looking at Russ Ortiz? Whatever happened to a possible David Wells pickup?
-- Tammy Z., San Francisco

Ortiz remains on the radar for now, and it's possible he could battle for the fifth starter's spot next spring. He'd be worth a shot. As for Wells, it appears he's bound for San Diego -- again.

Where or how is Mike Matheny?
-- Virginia G., Stockton, Calif.

Matheny's career is probably over. Still battling recurring post-concussion symptoms -- light-headedness, speech deficiencies -- he'd be foolish to play again. One more bop to the head and he could have serious brain problems. In a sense, he already has. He may stay with the organization in a non-playing capacity, but that role hasn't been defined.

I've heard nothing but good things about Fred Lewis in Fresno. Is he actually going to make the 25-man roster this year, or is he once again going to be stuck in the Minors?
-- Peter H., San Rafael, Calif.

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Lewis is finally developing after some injuries and defensive problems, but he's still trailing Todd Linden and Jason Ellison in the outfield pecking order. Lewis has all the athletic attributes, but needs a super spring to have a breakthrough.

Do you see any chance of the Giants using last year's No. 1 pick, Tim Lincecum, as the closer, like the Red Sox did last year with Jonathan Papelbon?
-- Tom W., Boise, Idaho

Lincecum is the most intriguing player in the system, and it'll be fascinating to see what happens. He's a starter, but with his smallish frame and all-out strikeout delivery, he seems perfect as a closer. Either way, the Giants have a gem.

Ever since Robb Nen, the team has never had a full-time closer, and GM Brian Sabean says it's likely either Brian Wilson or Armando Benitez will be the 2007 candidates. But who knows?

Unfortunately, you seem to have the same mentality as many others. "Going yard" 25 to 30 times a year doesn't win pennants. Catching fly balls, taking away extra bases -- these are some of the things that win games and subsequently pennants. Winning the home run title will do nothing toward winning the division. Don't tie Bruce Bochy's hands like they tied Felipe Alou's. Play to win. A $16 million bench warmer would do an ego good.
-- Ed K., Milwaukee

I've never believed homers were the end-all of the game. Far from it. Pitching is by far the most critical element. Bonds' muscles are important, but the rest of the Giants cast must contribute. It's a team game first and foremost.

Rich Draper is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.