San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito will make his first rehabilitation start with the San Jose Giants on Monday as he works his way back from a mid-foot sprain that has kept him on the DL since mid-April. Coincidentally enough, Zito's start will come against the Stockton Ports, the Oakland A's single A affiliate in the California League.
There has been no indication yet how many rehab starts Zito will make with the San Jose Giants. Even if he is 100% healthy, the big league Giants will find themselves with a sudden glut of starting pitching. Ryan Vogelsong has filled in for Zito and is pitching as well as just about anybody on the staff. In eight starts and two relief appearanes, Vogelsong is 4-1 with a 1.68 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Entering this season Vogelson was basically a 33-year old journeyman pitcher who had consistently struggled at the big league level. Eight starts into his return to the Giants and Vogelsong is pitching out of his mind.
That raises questions of what do the Giants do once Zito is ready to come back to the majors. The Bay Area Sports Guy weighed in on the subject and provided three options the Giants could utilize to keep Zito and Vogelsong around:
1. Put Zito in the pen
2. Six-man rotation
3. Trade one of the existing starters
Some may ask why not just unload Zito or Vogelsong? They both bring tricky issues that make them harder to unload. Zito's issue is pretty straight forward: The Giants owe him somewhere in the neighborhood of at least $46 million after this year (if you factor in the $7M buyout for 2014). Nobody is taking on that much salary without the inclusion of either some big name cheaper talent, or a whole ton of cash in the deal.
As for Vogelsong, in the world of video games or fantasy baseball, somebody might take the bait on a guy who was never particularly good before this year. However, given his age and track record, Vogelsong really doesn't have much in the way of trade value right now. As BASG points out, the only realistic trade candidate is probably Jonathan Sanchez. It remains to be seen what the Giants could get for him, but he'd bring back a much better bat than what Vogelsong would bring. If the team thinks it can hang around the 2011 playoff race, why not make the move to boost their offense?
The Giants find themselves in a tough situation given Zito's monstrous contract numbers. They can buy some time on a decision while Zito continues pitching at San Jose. However, at some point they'll have to make a move. If Vogelsong is struggling by that point maybe it's not as difficult. However, given how he's pitched over the last two months, I don't see him entering any sort of extended struggle anytime soon.