Zito savings for next year? Giants already spent it
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NEW YORK – Giants fans have been waiting for this day, and soon, it will arrive:

The organization is about to be free of Barry Zito’s seven-year, $126 million contract.

It was called an abomination the day it was announced, and most of the returns were spectacularly mediocre. Zito was 62-80 with a 4.63 ERA in 196 starts (plus 10 relief appearances) as a Giant, with a 1.44 WHIP. He never posted a 200-inning season, although he did make 30-plus starts in five of seven years.

And, last October, in the eyes of many, he made it all worthwhile by rescuing the Giants in Game 5 at St. Louis to bring the NLCS back to San Francisco, and then subdued the Detroit Tigers to win Game 1 of the World Series.

However you view Zito’s time as a Giant, the fact is, that contract is about to come off the book.

And guess what? The Giants already spent their savings.

How is that possible? Well, Zito is making $20 million in this last year of his contract. But a glance at the 2014 payroll commitments show that windfall will be scattered quickly in raises due to players under contract.

Buster Posey gets the largest bump ($7.5 million), to just over $11 million. Pablo Sandoval gets a raise ($2.55 million) to $8.25 million in the final year of his deal. Sergio Romo (up $2 million to $5.5 million) and Madison Bumgarner (up $3 million to $3.95 million) also are due raises.

And then you’ve got Brandon Belt, who could quadruple his $531,000 salary as a super-two arbitration player. Belt’s second-half production will come in awfully handy when it’s time for he and the club to exchange figures.

The raises to Posey, Sandoval, Romo and Bumgarner amount to $15.05 million.

Still short of Zito’s $20 million salary? Well, there’s one more thing: He’ll get a $7 million buyout when the Giants turn down his $18 million club option for next season.

So you can see how being free of Barry Zito doesn’t mean the Giants can start lighting cigars with $100s.

Now, of course, one other high-priced pitcher is coming off the books. That’s Tim Lincecum, who is making just over $22 million this season and will become a free agent for the first time. But the Giants want to re-sign him, and GM Brian Sabean already has pledged to extend him a qualifying offer, which would be in the $14 million range.

Lincecum almost certainly wouldn’t accept it. But if he and the Giants come to an agreement on a two-year structure (for, say, $30 million?) then the savings wouldn’t be dramatic. (A two-year contract is what they arrived at in each of Lincecum’s two previous deals.)

And we haven’t even gotten to Hunter Pence yet. He was making $13.8 million this year. And he’s gonna cost a lot more than that.