Just like we said at the end of the 2005 season: the A's need pitching in '06. On Monday, Billy Beane surprised baseball insiders by putting on shoes with laces and signing free agent starter Esteban Loaiza (whose last name we're going to have to learn to spell, like the whole Harden-Haren thing wasn't bad enough) to a 3-year, $21 million contract. Though Loaiza's agent, Joe Boggs, expected the A's to get out of the deep end when other teams got involved, the A's outbid, among others, your San Francisco Giants. That just doesn't happen.

Now, there's been some ugly speculation about what this signing means: Barry Zito could be on his way out of Oakland. At A's Brand Baseball, we believe that we've made our position on this issue perfectly clear, and Beane is saying all the right things, for now, about how you don't get rid of a 27 year-old lefty who's won a Cy Young award and throws one of baseball's least hittable pitches and is just so awesome (stop . . . breathe . . . ) just because you've added Esteban Loaiza. "You can never have enough pitching," says Billy. That sounds about right, and it really does seem to be a different world these days over on Hegenberger, so for now we'll focus instead on what Esteban Loaiza brings to the team.