Extensions for Everyone!
Shortly after I posted on Jeremy Affeldt’s extension, the Giants locked up two other key players, Brian Wilson and Matt Cain. Wilson’s contract totals $15 million and buys out two of his arbitration years, but none of his free agency. The Cain deal gives him a raise while buying out one of his free agency years. What these deals represent essentially is keeping homegrown talent happy enough to re-sign once they do hit the free agent market, so it’s hard to object.
On the other hand, I’m never comfortable paying for relief pitchers, and especially closers. If Armando Benitez taught us anything at all, it’s that the best kind of closer is the one making league minimum. Unless you’re Mariano Rivera, odds are a huge contract is probably not the best idea given how easily replaceable a league average closer is. With Wilson, we avoid arbitration and save a few million in dollars that can be spent elsewhere, so in terms of dollars and cents it’s not a bad deal at all. The real test will be what the Giants are willing to pay him should he decide to enter free agency.
With Cain, we see a huge financial investment in keeping him a Giant for years to come. His salary in 2010 stays that same ($4.24 million), while getting $7 million in 2011, as well as a whopping $15 million in 2012. The $15 million buys out his first year of free agency and shows a clear financial commitment to keeping him in San Francisco. The big question at this point is whether or not we’ll be able to afford a long term contract for both him and Tim Lincecum, who will likely get $18-20 million in free agency should he decide to go that route. In terms of fiscal responsibility, it seems shortsighted to devote a large percentage of payroll to two pitchers, especially factoring in both their heavy workloads in their mid-20’s.
That’s not to say I don’t want Matt Cain in a Giants uniform for as long as humanly possible. My biggest concern at this juncture is the ability of this team to afford two very good young pitchers for the long haul. There’s a very large possibility that when the chips are down the front office will be forced to choose between a massive contract for Timmy, and a slightly less massive contract for Cain. Since Cain enters free agency first, the man in charge will have to decide whether or not to let him walk in anticipation of maybe being able to keep Lincecum in San Francisco long term for tons of money.
Thinking on more of a short-term level, this deal keeps everyone happy. It makes Cain feel appreciated while saving the Giants $3 million or so in arbitration with Brian Wilson. With Opening Day fast approaching, it’s good to have contract talks behind us instead of having them drag out in the middle of season and serving as a distraction. The bottom line is that this keeps two key members of the team right now happy, and provides for the distinct possibility of keeping them around for longer. In the context of keeping morale at a high, I give it two thumbs up.
Photo used with express permission of Joseph Pun and AZGiants.com.