Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Love the Cain deal

We're getting awfully close to the season here boys and girls. I'm starting to get REALLY, REALLY excited, and I know you are too. Before we get to any season preview stuff in the next few days, I wanted to lay down some opinions on the recent Matt Cain extension.

The Giants are simply the envy of the league. When the worst pitcher in our top four is Barry Zito and we have Madison Bumgarner waiting in the wings to be the #5 sometime soon, we're sitting pretty. We are pretay, pretay, pretay, pretay good (in the Larry David voice click here to see the video on the site).

But, I don't need to tell you any of that.

What I do want to harp on, is the fact that very rarely in this day and age-- the day and age that has suffered from the Scott Borization of salary and franchise inequality-- can teams groom top notch home-grown talent, and then afford to keep them too.

How many times have we seen this happen? I remember when it first started getting out of control with teams like Oakland, Kansas City, and Florida shipping off their stars or letting them leave. Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, Miguel Tejada, Tim Hudson: Gone, gone, gone, gone.

This is why I think the way the Giants have gone about furnishing their roster and farm system has been so goddamn refreshing and exciting.

Lincecum, the dude more men have man-crushes on than any other pitcher on earth is under our control for 4 more seasons. Sanchez is around for 3 more-- at minimum. And we all know about Zito's never-ending deal.

That leaves Cain.

Sabean and Co. realized at some point that Cain is really the key to it all. Teams have managed to experience a certain degree of success with only one elite starter before, (the '08 Brewers come to mind), but very rarely do those teams win it all. This league absolutely requires at least two top-notch starting pitchers if you want to win.

With Cain's new 3 year deal, the starting 5 should together through at least the end of the 2012 season... simply incredible in my eyes.

Even the Braves' Big Three of the '90s, were just that-- three guys. Granted, Zito is no Glavine anymore and you can't really put Sanchez up there in the upper echelon of starters quite yet, but there are a million teams out there that would love to have our Big Four (soon to be Fab Five).

Back to Cain though.

While it is hard to imagine Tim Lincecum being any more effective, I believe Cain has yet to hit the pinnacle of his effectiveness and potential-- a scary thought.

His 2.89 ERA last year was 10th in the majors, certainly no small feat. I must say that his peripherals are not the type of numbers that blow you away like a Verlander or a Lincecum, but they are all above average and damned desirable.

And there's room for improvement.

Accomplished with this new extension for Cain are a number of things.

Firstly, Cain is happy with the organization. He enjoys being in San Francisco, he likes his teammates, he likes the direction the team is going, and he likes his future salary numbers. What's not to like?

It's just so refreshing to see a guy sign a reasonable deal like this that covers his first year of free agency at fair market value. Would Prince Fielder sign this kind of deal? You think that little Scott Boras devil on his shoulder would allow that? Certainly not.

Plus, Cain is just the perfect complement to Timmy. He doesn't mind being out of the limelight and playing second fiddle. He's just a regular Ford F250-driving Bud Light-drinking guy that happens to be an amazing pitcher.

I have read a few pieces that believe the 2012 $15MM figure to be a bit high. Yes and no. That number is contingent on Cain continually improving, which he has done each year as a pro. When you look at pitchers like Cain and the deals they've gotten, it seems pretty well in line with them.

Zack Greinke signed a deal last year that paid him $3.75MM in '09, then escalates to $7.25MM, $13.5MM, and $13.5MM in '10, '11, and '12 respectively, with 2011 representing his first year of free agency.

Justin Verlander inked a deal this year with Detroit that will pay him $20MM for his first three years of free agency (through 2014).

Felix Hernandez of the Mariners just got his meal ticket in the form of a very similar deal that will net him $18.5MM, $19.5MM, and $20MM in his first three years of post-arbitration life.

Now, I'm not going to tell you that Matt Cain is as good as Greinke, Verlander, and Hernandez right now (more Lincecum territory), because it's not true. However, Cain is juuuuuusst a bit outside of this group right now, and $15MM sounds just about right.

So as Cain continues down the solid path in which he's currently traveling, let's hope he becomes the Curt Schilling to Lincecum's Randy Johnson when it's time to win that first elusive World Series.

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