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As we continue with our long-running production, Waiting for Zito...

Michael Morrissey in the NY Post talks about the Mets' pursuit of Barry Zito, and includes this snippet designed to evoke fear and loathing in all good, loyal Mets fans:

For Mets fans, the most distressing news might be this: a source told The Post yesterday that Rangers owner Tom Hicks is helming the charge to sign Zito in no uncertain terms.

Earlier this month, the source said, Hicks walked into a meeting and told his front-office people something to the effect of, "I'm taking over this negotiation now."

Although Texas privately shot down reports it had already offered six years and $100 million to Zito, don't bet against it happening by the end of the Zito negotiations. Many owners stay out of day-to-day baseball operations, as Mets owner Fred Wilpon has learned to do only after making mistakes (Art Howe). That isn't Hicks' way. Earlier this month, he opened his home to Mulder, and chances are he will open his vault further to Zito.

The thing with Zito at this point is, the Rangers' offseason strategy seemed to be built around landing either Dice K or Zito. They made a very strong offer for Dice -- one that, before the bidding, I would have assumed would be good enough to get him -- but missed out on him, leaving them with just Zito.

Missing out on Zito is going to be a major buzzkill for the Ranger fanbase...bringing in Zito shows a major upgrade to the part of the team that has long been its Achilles heel, and gives you a big name, showy guy to market around and drive some fan interest.

On the other hand, striking out on Zito leads to more stories about how these are the same old Rangers, can't get any pitching, can't lure free agents to pitch in the heat...and a rotation headed up by Millwood, Padilla and, say, Jon Lieber doesn't look a whole lot more attractive than last year's rotation headed up by Millwood, Padilla and Eaton. With Zito here, folks can get fired up about a playoff contender. With someone like Lieber here instead -- rightly or wrongly -- the team is going to be viewed as another bleah, .500 or thereabouts team.

So from a marketing standpoint, from a buzz and vibe standpoint, Zito is going to have short-term value to the team above and beyond just the wins he can contribute.

Mark Mulder's agent has made a counter-proposal to the Rangers, according to Richard Durrett this morning. The counter-proposal was sent Monday, and Mulder is apparently having ongoing discussions with the Rangers, Indians, Cards, and D-Backs.

Rod Barajas has a one year, $2.5 million deal from the Phillies, once he passes his physical.

The addition of Barajas makes me wonder if the Rangers could, if they re-open trade talks with the Phillies, try to pry Chris Costa away from Philadelphia as part of a deal. Costa will be 34 when the season begins, and isn't very good defensively, but can hit, and would probably be a better backup catching option than Miguel Ojeda.