Over the weekend it was reported that the Giants and Matt Cain are still having, in what Larry Baer has described as, “back-and-forth conversations” in regards to a potential contract extension. The Matt Cain Contract Extension plotline has been, and will most likely continue to be, one of the more interesting threads of this year’s Spring Training. The Giants have said on numerous occasions that their primary concern during this past offeason has been to lock up the pitching.
From an Andrew Baggarly article on November 29, 2011:
During a conference call in which CEO Larry Baer announced contract extensions for Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy, the Giants’ top decision makers were in lockstep: They plan to earmark most their money to extend their “gold standard” pitching staff, then use the remainder to address a lineup that scored the fewest runs in the N.L. last season.
I think the last payroll estimate I saw had the Giants at approximately $130M for the 2012 budget. A large portion of that $130M will be paid out to Aaron Rowand ($13.6M), Barry Zito ($19M), and several key deals, most notably Pablo Sandoval’s recent pact and Tim Lincecum’s two-year, $40.5M deal. Matt Cain will be earning $15M in the last year of a three-year extension he signed in 2010.
As the “gold standard” went this offseason, so has the rest of the team’s moves; the Giants picked up both Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera on one-year commitments. Both will earn, cumulatively, somewhere in the neighborhood of $12M. Also, we signed Ryan Theriot. Yup. Better go ahead and get that World Series trophy polished up.
Back to the original article, Matt Cain is looking for a “fair value” contract:
Though “fair value” is subject to interpretation, Cain probably is seeking an agreement that falls in a range between the five-year, $85 million deal that the Los Angeles Angels gave Jered Weaver — a package widely considered to be a “hometown discount” — and the five-year, $120 million contract Cliff Lee received from Philadelphia.
I left my free agent pitcher contract dowsing rod in the attic, so I can’t forsee the future and tell you what “fair value” actually means, but if I had to take a guess, I would guess: Matt Cain would like some money, please.
Back in December I wondered aloud if we should assume that the Giants would be able to lock up Matt Cain to an extension before the season. At the time, I compared Matt Cain and CC Sabathia as pitchers hitting the market at opportune times. Both Cain and Sabathia share extremely similar pitching statistics to this point in their careers. Cain might not garner the buzz, but in a market that’s paying C.J. Wilson upwards of $70M to pitch, I don’t think Cain will have any problems — barring some sort of horrific injury, oh god — getting his share.
This, of course, takes us back to the idea of “fair value” and what it might mean to Matt Cain. I don’t claim to know Matt Cain, or his inner most feelings, desires, and thoughts; but, I think we can assume that Cain realizes that he’s a valuable baseball commodity.
Listed below are two groups: one group consists of some recent free agent pitcher deals and the other group consists of pitchers that signed extensions — mostly players still under some type of control via arbitration, which Cain doesn’t fit that profile.
2011: C.J. Wilson, five-years, $77.5M, AAV $15M
2010: Cliff Lee, five-years, $120M, AAV $24M
2009: John Lackey, five-years, $82.5M, AAV $16.5M
2008: CC Sabathia, seven-years, $161M, AAV $23M
2008: A.J. Burnett, five-years. $82.5M, AAV $16.5M
2006: Barry Zito, seven-years, $126M, AAV $18M
2011: John Danks*, five-years, $65M, AAV $13M
2011: Jered Weaver*, five-years, $85M, AAV $17M
2010: Felix Hernandez*, five-years, $78M, AAV $15.6M
* Denotes arbitration years included in deal
On the free agent signings end, the average annual value of the contracts range from a high of $24M with Lee to a low of $16.5M with Lackey and Burnett. The extensions range from a high of $17M for Jered Weaver — a deal that’s worth noting is universally accepted as a “hometown discount” deal — and a low of $13M for Danks.
Cain is no longer arbitration eligible and I think he fits more closely in with the first group of players that played the market, considered offers, and then signed with a team. It’s also worth mentioning that Cain will be joined by — unless they themselves sign extensions — Cole Hammels and Zack Greinke as free agents. So, he could have some competition, but I don’t see it hurting his overall value too much. All-Star talent will always get paid. If Cain is seeking “fair value” I think you’ve got to start that number at somewhere around $20M AAV. It’s not the $24M per season that Lee got, but it’s also a bit higher than the $17M that Weaver settled on, which everyone seems to acknowledge was a pretty unique scenario.
Final guess: Six-years, $120M.
(It makes me a bad fan, but whether or not I want my favorite team committing $100M or more to a pitcher for any length of time is a discussion best saved for another day. Here’s the short version: it makes me extremely nervous.)