As Brian Sabean noted, "It's our window. ... To have these guys for  now. The comfort in knowing that they are going to be in Giants uniforms helping us win games is a statement in itself. It seems fitting. It seems the right thing to do it. Having said that, if we didn't get business done in spring training, we would have halted [the negotiations]. We didn't want it to be a distraction." Sabean noted that they started the talks during the off-season, then started in earnest with everyone at the start of March. Sabean also noted, "We have cost certainty and the fans have the comfort of knowing these guys are going to be in Giants uniforms helping us win games."
Baggarly had a quote with Cain regarding the deal on his blog and Schulman in his article, where Cain discusses how happy he and his wife were with the deal. Cain said, "I think it shows some appreciation of all the things I've done for the Giants, but I also think it shows the way they run the organization. It's a great situation where we could do something for both sides. Me and [wife] Chelsea are more than ecstatic about doing this."
Baggarly wrote in his blog:
So the Giants could be looking at a dynastic staff, which is partially what motivated Cain to re-up. He’s not the type to seek his own glory as a No.1 elsewhere. He’s never begrudged “living under Timmy’s shadow” the past couple seasons. On the contrary, he said he loves the competition.Baggarly noted in the article:
“Obviously, the best I got to see were the big three in Atlanta,” Cain said. “We saw it in Oakland with Zito, Mulder and Hudson. It builds us all up. I feel we all share the leadership every time we go out there and pitch.”
“That’s what we’ve been talking about all spring training, that all of us love playing together and really feed off each other. We’ve got great chemistry and that shows with them being able to do these deals. They see this core group and they want to keep these guys together.” "
Cain said he had no reservations about signing away his first year of free agency. He hadn't thought ahead about testing the market, nor was he motivated by the thought of going to another club where he could escape Tim Lincecum's shadow and be the staff aceSchulman wrote:
"When you see a group of pitchers stay together like that "... it builds us all up," said Cain, citing the 1990s-era Atlanta Braves and the Oakland A's staffs with Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder. "I feel we all share the leadership every time we go out there and pitch."
Lincecum and No. 4 starter Jonathan Sanchez won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season.
"It's amazing to watch these guys throwing seven shutout innings every night," Wilson said. "Every player strives to be part of an organization that values you. "... You work even harder to maintain it and go for the next one. I'll try to be a Giant for the rest of my career."
How wide could this window open for the Giants? Sabean was hesitant to say it could match the unprecedented run the club made from 1997-2003 behind Bonds.
"This group would really have to step it up," Sabean said. "Having said that, maybe last year was the beginning of a run the pitching staff will help to carry. We'll have to figure out more offense in and around this."
They will need much of that offense to come from the farm. The Giants forecast to have limited financial flexibility, particularly in 2012 when Cain and Zito will make $35 million and Tim Lincecum could be due another huge number in arbitration. Aware that his rotation could become a budget killer, Sabean said he's hoping the organization's young hitting prospects will pan out.
As for the risk of investing in pitching?
"It's not like we're giving four- or five-year deals," Sabean said. "We're past that. They're short-window deals that you'd expect both parties would make out."
In all, ownership agreed to shell out $43.5 million above its previous commitments to Cain, Affeldt and Wilson. The team gains cost certainty while risking guaranteed money to pitchers who might get hurt. The pitchers enjoy that guaranteed money against the risk of leaving more dollars on the table in arbitration and free agency. ...
Cain also said he and his teammates want to be together well into the future.
"We really feed off each other," he said. "We feel we've got great chemistry with everybody. We love this, the fact that we'll be able to play with Wilson the next couple of years, Zito, Timmy, all these guys."
Cain compared the continuity of the Giants' rotation now to the Braves' trio of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine, and the A's big three of Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder.
Wilson, whose 79 saves the last two seasons rank fourth in the majors, said, "Oh, sweet," when told all the deals were done. He pledged to work harder than ever so he can earn another contract "and try to be a Giant for the rest of my career."
Dynastic staff is what I've been talking about the Giants rotation. I'm been writing for a while now about how pitching is our future (since the Giants said that Bonds was no longer our future, one of the Mercury columnist wondered what next and I noted that it's clearly pitching) and how powerful it is to have a pitching rotation that can dominate the other teams in a series, when they have a high PQS DOM%. And now we have all the major pieces covered to 2012 plus still control Lincecum and Sanchez to 2013.
Some are not happy because of the restrictions on the payroll budget due to these guaranteed monies. But at some point, you have to realize that this was coming along with the success of our pitchers, that at some point they are going to get paid big money. And that the Giants management realized that.
I think that Neukom's stance with Sabean regarding the budget, that he should not feel constrained by the budget when bringing baseball recommendations to Neukom, shows that he understood this budget dynamic, punctuated by Zito's huge contract and then Rowand's contract.
But people forget that by 2011, the year some are worried about the Giants payroll, the Giants only have two more seasons of Rowand's salary and three more of Zito (highly unlikely his team option will be picked up nor that he earn the vesting by averaging 200 IP over any stretch). And that by the end of the 2011 season, that's only one season of Rowand and two of Zito remaining, making their contracts easier to trade off if the Giants pony up some money to push their final cost to the other team down to more reasonable levels. And who knows, if Rowand is as improved as he appears to be this spring - after finally figuring out that he should get in shape to earn his money - and if Zito can continue his great second half of 2009 into 2010 and 2011, the Giants could make the trade easily, again with some money added in, but which would save a huge chunk of money for our young players due raises.
In addition, Neukom should not offer to extend the payroll if he wasn't serious, because that would be seriously bad PR for Sabean to say this publicly and it don't happen and we end up trading someone good just to save money. Reportedly they were kicking the tires on Manny Ramirez when the D-gers were trying to re-sign him, which would have meant a bump in the budget of up to $20M that season (I think they were a little under budget at that time).
That is a serious bump of money to allow, even for only one season, so Neukom has a sugar daddy somewhere he can tap into easily for that big coin because from my observation of how much money he supposedly made off Microsoft stock, money he has invested in owning a big chunk of the Giants, and donations he and his wife have made to universities, he should not have a lot of money left (well, plenty for you and me but not to cover that) to cover such a big bump upward.
Other Giants News and Thoughts
Speaking of Neukom, there was a nice article on him on sfgiants.com recently. He talked about this plans for the Giants, both present and future, and about The Giants Way. Part of this way is that they are investing in helping their prospects and players stay in better shape and conditioning, hiring staff and buying equipment:
"The baseball's got to speak for itself because there are so many variables," he said. "We're investing in homegrown talent. We have this very clear strategy, which is better conditioning, better prepared, more clear-headed people playing baseball, and we want to get to a sustainable level of exciting baseball played the right way. After that, we'll have to see what happens."
Neukom raved about the team's mini-camp in January and how much he was impressed with the players' condition when they arrived for Spring Training. ...
"We're at a stage now where we are strong enough to think we don't have to rush [Minor League players] ahead of schedule," he said. "Traditionally, you think in terms of the best and most talented prospects, baseball people would want him to spend probably four years in the Minors before he was ready to come up and contribute at the Major League level.
"It varies from player to player and team to team. We don't want to be desperate. We don't want to rush kids ahead of when they should be coming up, and I think we're in that situation." ...
Neukom said he has spoken to fans and has answers for those who have questions about the team's approach.
"I tell them our goal is a medium-term, long-term goal," he said. "The immediate step was getting the Giants to play winning baseball and to build on that increasingly from homegrown talent and become the kind of team that contend year in and year out. Nobody can have a strict timetable on that."
Finally, we are working to get all our prospects in shape and a good state of mind to focus on baseball. One step at a time. And a great commitment to bulding up the farm system and using that as a key component of keeping the team strong now and in the future. Assuming the team continues to win, that means going after players who fell in the draft because of concerns over how much they want in bonus and paying much over slot for them (which they appear to have had no problem with previously, going way over for Posey and Wheeler) and going after the top Latin American talent out there, preferably hitters as they seem to be better bets relatively (and which is the way they have been doing it, as Villalona and RafRod are the two big signings plus the Giants were in on a couple of other position prospects as well before losing to other clubs).
In other news, Todd Wellemeyer should get announced as the 5th starter. Also, I heard Schulman on KNBR over the weekend (I really liked him on radio, I enjoyed that a lot, he should do a lot more of that on KNBR, I hope) and he covered his blog on the 25-man roster that I wrote about the other day. He made his point that the Giants don't want to put additional stress on their young starter's arm early in the season by giving them additional games, so Wellemeyer will be taking his 5th starter starts which means the Giants will need a long relief guy to be there, which in his thinking would mean Pucetas. And I agree that it is likely that Pucetas will win that role because of how well he had done in spring until his outing this weekend, which ultimately wasn't that bad as he recovered to give us three innings.
However, Schulman also noted that Henry Sosa is being given the opportunity to make the team - a good sign is that he's still with the team - and Sosa has experience as a starter but looks to be a reliever long-term because he's a high effort thrower who has been battling physical problems, and relief would put less stress on him. Sosa has had a great spring as well and would not cost the Giants a 40-man slot because he's already on it (unlike, say, Denny Bautista; the Giants do have two spots open now with the Frandsen trade, but Wellemeyer and Mota appear to have them locked up, Wellemeyer particularly so). So the Giants could decide to bring him up to be the long reliever and sent Pucetas down to AAA to be ready to start if we need it.
I think that is a strong possibility. Pucetas wouldn't be prepared to take a starter's spot if he's pitching long-relief for us. Of course, Bumgarner is probably the first line of defense there, and Pucetas could be sent down at that time to be prepared in case there is another need for a starter. But Pucetas did not do that well last season in AAA, he had a couple of good months early but overall was not that great, and in particular could not strike out very many hitters.
So he still has something to prove in terms of dominating hitters at a higher level, he could have been very lucky this spring (that is why scouting is so much more important than just eyeing the stats like I and others do - but then again, that is all that is available to me). I can see the Giants wanting to see him do well for a season in AAA and be ready to start for them as necessary during the season, while Sosa be our long-guy. That could lead to Sosa joining middle relief next season while Pucetas then take the long reliever role, assuming he does well in AAA this season plus beat out Joe Martinez next spring.
In addition, Baggarly noted that Fred Lewis has been complaining about a rib injury problem, so I smell an extended stint for Lewis on the DL, while the starting RF situation sorts itself out on the 25-man roster in the meanwhile. Schierholtz has been struggling - again unfortunately - and with Bowker's sudden surge (I would note that he wasn't doing that great until those few games, so it would seem odd that Bowker could win the position with just a couple of good games of hitting when not doing that great before), there has been a lot of news about Schierholtz still battling to win the RF spot, and now with Bowker's surge, the Giants might visit Bowker starting in LF while DeRosa starts in RF (which someone else noted DeRosa hasn't played any of this spring, but I would note that he played RF a bit in previous seasons - and well usign UZR/150 rating - and didn't get many/any starts in LF prior to this season, which hasn't even started yet).
Sabean also discussed extensively about Nate's struggles, which can't help him either. Still, that's life as a major leaguer, and the sooner Schierholtz gets used to all that, the sooner he can show what he got at the major league level. He needs to stop tinkering and just do the old rule of: see ball, hit ball, and not complicate it with whether to use batting gloves or not, and so forth.
In any case, if Lewis is on the DL, then the Bowker and Schierholtz (and Torres too I suppose, and maybe Velez too) situation will unfold and perhaps the Giants will put Lewis back on the 25-man roster and move someone else off, instead of trading him. Or by then some other team might be a bit more desperate for an OF capable of starting and give us a better prospect for him.