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Buster Olney on Lima Time

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Buster Olney has some thoughts on the Mets' 5th starter situation, which is really a pretty intriguing plot line, even this early in the season.

You've got a team that has been built to Win Now, and has jumped out to an early lead in the N.L. East. But you've also got the Phillies, who are a decent team, hanging around, plus the Braves, who, like the A's, always seem to make a late-season surge after folks have written them off.

They've now lost Victor Zambrano, and were forced to bring up Jose Lima to take his place in the rotation. And while Jose Lima's presence on a team brings with it certain benefits:

he's a terrible pitcher.

Olney suggests that the Mets might get in on Barry Zito to replace Zambrano. As Olney points out, it is going to be hard for the Mets to pick up a second- or third-tier starter, because they don't have much in the farm system to offer in the way of the B-level prospects to get someone like Kyle Lohse. They've got Lastings Milledge to offer, and not much else.

So if they are going to give up Milledge, it is going to be for someone significant, like Barry Zito.

Now, Billy Beane wouldn't seem to be fired up about trading Zito at this point. His team is just a half-game out of first, and both Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza are on the disabled list. Most g.m.s aren't going to trade their staff ace in such a situation.

Of course, Beane isn't most g.m.s, and he's been willing to make deals like this in the past, even with the A's in contention. And there is pitching depth in the minors, so once Harden and Loaiza return, it isn't as if Zito's departure would open a gaping hole in the rotation.

Personally, I don't want to see Milledge go to Oakland, even if it costs the A's Barry Zito. A Zito-less Oakland team would be less likely to win the A.L. West this year, but adding Milledge is going to make them much stronger down the road. I'd rather Oakland ride out Zito and just get the draft picks for him.