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Cy Young Winner On the Move?

With the baseball winter meetings set to commence next week, plenty of trade rumors will begin to sprout and circulate. Most of them are bogus, but every now and then a rumor does come to fruition. The key to navigating through the myriad of smoke screens is following the transaction wire for supposedly minor deals leading up to the meetings. Today, one of those "minor" deals went down with the Athletics signing free agent starter Esteban Loaiza to a multi-year contract. The acquisition of Loaiza is not a big deal but why the A's acquired him is.

With Esteban Loaiza, Oakland now has seven legitimate starters on their 40 man roster: Barry Zito, Rich Harden, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Kirk Saarloos, Joe Kennedy, and now Esteban Loaiza. Only five will actually be starters for the Athletics next year. So, who are the two odd men out? Certainly not Loaiza, since the A's just signed him. It is hard to imagine Harden, Haren, Blanton, or Kennedy being left out either, considering how young they are and, more importantly, how good and inexpensive they are. As for Kirk Saarloos, he has a fair amount of experience coming out of the bullpen, so he could very well start the season as a long reliever until one of the starters inevitably misses a start. That leaves only one pitcher unaccounted for: Barry Zito. Most teams would drool over the possibility of acquiring a Cy Young Award winner, especially one with several prime years left like him. Furthermore, the A's could save money by dealing him and other teams would consider his $8.5 million salary a bargain thanks to the ridiculous free agent market set for pitchers this year (see this for more on the market).

So, when Barry Zito's name comes up in trade rumors, believe it. Since the A's signed Esteban Loaiza, it is all but a foregone conclusion that he will pitch elsewhere in 2006.