Giants sign Zito to record £63m deal


Last updated at 11:20 29 December 2006

Barry Zito has accepted a seven-year deal worth £63m from the San Francisco Giants which is the largest ever given to a pitcher in baseball history.

And it could escalate to £72m if the 28-year-old free agent, who has spent his entire career with the Oakland Athletics, stays with the Bay Area club. Zito, who lives in San Francisco, turned down a six-year £44m offer from the Texas Rangers while the New York Mets, Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees were also interested in him.

The left-arm thrower was with the A's for six seasons and did not miss a start, proving his resilience and durability by completing more than 200 innings every year.

San Francisco were looking for someone to fill the void left when ace Jason Schmidt departed earlier this month to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. And while the Giants will again be one of the oldest teams in the majors, the long-term addition of Zito will give them a strong young rotation for the future.

Left-hander Noah Lowry, 26, is under the team's control through 2010 and right-hander Matt Cain, 22, is signed until the end of 2011. The Giants also have right-hander Matt Morris, 32, signed until the end of 2008 with a club option for the following year.

"It's a huge piece of the puzzle as far as solidifying our rotation," Lowry said. "We have a couple of No 1-calibre pitchers. "I'm obviously going to be able to learn from him. The seasons are long and gruelling and he hasn't missed a start. That says a lot about the guy and his durability."

The deal matches the £63m, seven-year extension given this month by the Toronto Blue Jays to center-fielder Vernon Wells and is the sixth highest payout in MLB history.

"It's a lot of money," Zito's former Oakland team-mate Mark Ellis said. "I was shocked. That's great for him. Obviously we wanted him in Oakland but that's a good place for him. There couldn't be a better fit I don't think."

Jeff Suppan's £21m deal with the Milwaukee Brewers over the next four years doesn't look very impressive in comparison but it is still the biggest in the franchise's history.

The former St Louis Cardinals pitcher will sign the contract today after passing a physical and the Brewers have an option to keep him in 2012 as well.

Suppan has made at least 31 starts in each of the last nine seasons and he has not been on the disabled list since the end of the 1996 campaign.

He will turn 32 on Wednesday and his agent, Scott Leventhal, said: "Knock on wood, he's one of the most durable pitchers in the game." And Brewers assistant manager Gordon Ash added: "I don't know that it's his best attribute but it's certainly one of them.

"Durability was a part of his repertoire and what made him appealing but there is also the issue of his experience in big games and what that will bring to the club."

Barring injuries before the start of the 2007 season, Suppan will join Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano and Dave Bush in the starting rotation along with Claudio Vargas, who was acquired with catcher Johnny Estrada and reliever Greg Aquino in an earlier trade that sent left-hander Doug Davis to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The least-experienced member of that five-man rotation is Bush and he made 72 starts last season to lead Brewers with 12 wins.

The Major League Baseball Players Association plans to fight a federal appeals court's decision to give prosecutors access to the names and urine samples of more than 100 players who tested positive for steroids in 2003.

Union head Donald Fehr said: "If Wednesday's decision is allowed to stand it will effectively repeal the Fourth Amendment for confidential electronic records."

The court's 2-1 ruling could help authorities pinpoint the source of steroids in professional baseball. It also could bolster the perjury case against Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who is under investigation for telling a grand jury he never knowingly used performance-enhancing drugs.

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