Sunday, March 25, 2012

Deadline Approach: Cain Cain Cain, Fans in Pain

As the season opener approaches, and the deadline Cain had set for settling the extension approaches, many fans are frustrated that the Giants have not backed up the truck and deposited the millions Cain is reportedly asking for (9 figures).  While I'm antsy too, this is just big business negotiating, there was almost no way a contract would be signed early.

As seen in many negotiations run in public, like strikes or union deals, or closer, in signing draft picks, things don't get done often until just before the deadline.  I still believe that this extension deal with Cain will get done.

Most importantly of all, that don't fit his behavior from before.  Both of his prior long-term extension deals were not deals for top money.  He could have pushed for more, like Lincecum did with the Indians, hence why I think Lincecum is the harder one to sign of the two into his free agent years.  And he seems like the same guy he was when he came up.

So if the rumors of the Giants latest offer is close to the truth - 5 years, $90M - I still believe that Cain will sign for something in the 5 year, $90-100M range, with possible kickers of one and maybe two years additional at $20M each, both vesting if he pitches enough innings, similar to Zito's option year.  That would bring Cain to the 9-digit level his side craves and that is the key here to understanding the lack of movement and the leaks of information regarding the negotiations.

Cain has new agents - his agents joined a new agency and turned over the reins to, I'm guessing, more senior and experienced negotiators in that agency.  They want to get every dollar out of the stone.  If you give up everything early, they will assume you have more to give and continue to haggle for money.  So had fans been in control and gave Cain the reported 6 years, $120M contract that they were rumored to be asking for, his agents would probably say, whoa there, that's nice, but we actually wanted more than that (agents are very smart - so are GMs - and they never give the other side exactly what their demands are, instead many floats balloons through willing media representatives), and negotiations would now begin on a 7 year, $145M contract (because by then he should get a raise).

It never ends.  Until the end, at the deadline.

So I assume the "impasse" means that the Giants are near where they are willing to pay but Cain's new agents want to make a big splash by securing the first 9 figure contract for a right-hander since Kevin Brown, and attract other top hurlers to join their agency by pointing to that shining example.  So with a couple of days left, I expect there to be movement and the Giants would finally move their final piece to move on the chess board, and with time running out, there will be a glorious press conference announcing that both sides had to give a little, but after kicking some tires around, they were able to come to a mutually agreeable contract, with both sides winning.

Of course, just my opinion, but given Cain's history of elbow issues (at least three reported instances in his pro career, and who knows how many unreported) and his agent's duty of fiduciary responsibility, they cannot in good conscience advice Cain not to sign a contract in the $90-100M range because that could all go away with one snap of something.  Just look at what happened with Ryan Madson, lucky for the Reds it was only a one year deal, but what if he was signed to a 4 year deal?

The bigger issue, to me, has always been Tim Lincecum, followed closely by Bumgarner.  Lincecum has asked for top dollar at every opportunity.  Not to say it wasn't undeserved, but still, that is his behavior.  And Bumgarner has deep family ties that I don't see how he don't end up with the Braves after his 7 years with the Giants.


  1. Replies
    1. The year before the Giants drafted Lincecum, the Indians selected him with one of their last picks (40-something from what I recall), and offered him mid-6 figures ($400K sticks in my mind). He wanted $1M and thus the Indians blew the chance to have a rotation of CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum together for a year or maybe two, not sure of the timing exactly.

      He ended up getting $200K over slot with the Giants for his signing bonus, famously waited until they were sitting outside the arbitration hearing doors before coming to an agreement on the first big arbitration contract, and then getting his latest contract, which I would guess is the highest ever received by an arbitration eligible pitcher. It will not be easy to sign him to a long term contract, and the Giants might not want to if they are able to sign Cain to a long term contract, as that would roughly commit 40% of the team's payroll to Lincecum and Cain.

  2. Very true. I don't think any of this Cain contract talk is out of the ordinary by any stretch of the imagination. Even if they don't come up with a deal before the start of the season, I still think Cain will strongly consider the Giants this off-season and most likely sign. This most likely is just a game of (in the words of Tony Montana to his banker) "You go high, I go low" negotiation. I think Cain is set in terms of being in SF and the Giants want to pay him what he's worth, it's just that they have been burned before (Zito) and they just want to make sure they can come to the fairest agreement possible. Whether or not this gets taken care of before or after the season, I still think Cain signs with the Giants.

    I will say though that the more I think about it, the more I do believe Cain will be a Giant and Lincecum will not when he's a free agent. Though he has been successful here and has endeared to the fan base, Lincecum is a big figure nationally, who will command a lot of interest wherever he goes. That is why I think a lot of clubs will go after him, simply because he will be able to generate so much on his namesake and reputation alone. Lincecum is more of a rock star than Cain, who is more of a "let my game do my talking" sort of player. That is why I think a team will vastly overpay for Lincecum to the point where it just wouldn't be in the Giants' best interests to re-sign him. I love Timmy and do wish he would stay with the Giants, but I just know some team will offer him the moon with the idea of how much fanfare he will generate to the club (Seattle is my big prediction; would be a huge PR boost to a club that needs a spark beyond the "But we got all these great prospects!" sh-peal) and it will just be too much for the Giants to match.

    1. Yeah, basically, I agree with what you say about Lincecum. I hope you are right about Cain, at this point, I think he wants to stay, but I have to think the Giants have already offered him a LOT of money, and if he turns it down just to taste free agency, I don't see how we don't get outbid by someone else as well.

      To me, it is not the Zito deal that pushes the Giants thinking on long big contracts, it is more the cumulative lessons they have learned during the Sabean era. Matty vs. Barry. BARRY again. Robb Nen.

      And the one that I think is more influential in affecting their decision making is Rowand's contract, not Zito. Zito at least provided some value during the life of his huge contract. Never near earning it, but he did at least learn a good portion of it, particularly in 2009-10. Rowand never really earned any of it, except for, like, the first four months of his contract.

      Back to Lincecum, that is why I broached the topic of trading Lincecum at some point, in a post a while back. If we have Cain signed and Lincecum unwilling to sign a long-term deal by the off-season, I think the Giants have to think seriously about trading him for a big bundle of prospects.

      We should be getting at least one pitcher who is ready for the majors, either doing well in AAA or AA, plus at least one position player ready as well. I still like the A's trade of Haren to the D-backs as the best model for the Giants to follow.

      WIth that pitcher, we would have Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Surkamp, and the new traded pitcher in the rotation. Won't be killer rotation anymore, but by then we should have Brown, Panik, Sandoval, Posey, Belt as the top of our order, maybe Melky in the mix too, if he does well and the Giants sign him to an extension, that would be a pretty good lineup.

      Thanks for your comment.

  3. Great post. Its always important to keep things in perspective, and to remember this is big business. The agents love to negotiate in the press, and the national journalists eat it up for the inside track. Nothing drives fans eyeballs like their favorite players contract situations.

    What you laid down sounds logical, and I can see that playing out for sure, a last minute deal. For the sake of discussion, let me put down two things here:

    First, as we have Baggs hinting at the Rowand/Tejada DFA's as a reason Bow Tie got axed, and you stated that Rowand might be drawing more influence than Zito, let's look real quick at the ownership. As business folks, you never want to let go of an non-performing asset. The concept of sunk cost is very hard to swallow. I get that. What I think Baggs is hinting at is some of the ownership group isn't exactly baseball savvy. I have some half ass connections that know a thing or two about the owners, and there are some vocal 1-2-3 %ers who band together. These folks really enjoy the prestige of part-owning the Giants but don't necessarily have the testicular fortitude for big time operations. They have a harder time swallowing the Zito/Rowand contract debacles than the interwebz fans who rant and rave about them all the time. They want their moneys worth, damn the torpedoes.

    The Burns daughters stick out to me as Trustifarians who don't have a clue or a real interest, but apparently there are others in this group who fit that bill as well. I actually have sympathy for Larry Baer on this issue, I think he is a baseball fan who has a clue. He just has to run herd on these guys, and its a lot of hand holding, something Bow Tie wasn't really suited for.

    Second point: As usual, I'll just harp on Tom Seaver. There are generations of Mets fans who will never ever get over Tom Seaver leaving. Its all well and good to play armchair GM, the arguments are sound. From a historians prospective, you look at the downside enough and throw up your hands, you lose out on once in a lifetime players. It is a hard determination to make, but the man himself, Seaver, thinks Cain and Lincecum are absolute horses. Now the stakes are so much higher now, and the money is astronomical, I'm not saying its an easy decision. But losing out on the chance for true greatness, that's a big time blow.

    I guess I'm looking at the upside all the time with our two guys. I have a fans perspective on this, and I want to see history made. The business side might not line up. I can understand there is a limit the Giants FO just can't pass. I'm not quite confident they are in the same reality though, the ownership that is. And yes, I'm still scarred by Will Clark and Jeff Kent leaving. Older fans, lets throw out Gaylord Perry, Bobby Bonds and the trade offs of Cepeda, Foster and Maddux.

    I agree with your theory teams know their players the best. Sometimes personalities rub, and choices get made that are short sighted. It's a straight money thing in this case, but it would be a shame if Rowand/Zito keep haunting the franchise.

    1. Great comment, Shankbone.

      I totally agree that the minority owners don't really get it. That is why Bowtie was buying up so many shares over the years, from those who did not get it. That is why the Giants did not spend as much as they might have during the mid-2000's when Bonds was around, as the rumors I read said that Magowan could not convince the minority owners to chip in incrementally more money into the team, and thus they had to stay in the positive in net earnings (or whatever financial metric they use to determine investment inflow/outflow).

      That's why I've been harping on a big money investor coming in and buying out the whole team (or most of it) and not having to listen to these knuckleheads.

      If you are not in it to win it, you should just sell out your shares and let an owner who understands the fans side better.

      And this is even more critical soon, with the D-gers being bought by a big moneyed group, who probably will be more aggressive in spending, as they are competing with the Angel's owner for mindshare in SoCal. The Giants cannot afford to be held back by any minority owner unwilling or unable to pony up more money.

      Yeah, I don't see the Burns sisters as deeply embedded owners. That's is partly why I like that Charles Johnson has been buying up shares and is the largest owner now, he seems to be into the team, but he's in his 70's, and I don't know how much longer he'll be around. That could leave a hole in the ownership structure.

      About Seaver, I totally understand being upset about losing him. The Mets should have never let him go, they had the money to keep him. He might believe that Cain and Lincecum are horses, but, again, not to beat a dead horse, risks are risks, and the longer the term the riskier for the team.

    2. I want to see greatness too. I just don't want to see an epic downfall either.

      I was not scarred by Will Clark and Jeff Kent leaving. Clark was injured on and off his last years with us and I didn't want to commit so much money to him given that. I was scarred by Robby Thompson's faceplant after signing that big contract with us.

      Jeff Kent just worn out his welcome with me. His "truck washing" accident really turned me off, he's always talking about being professional and all that, but then to do something dangerous like that, risking OUR money like that, then lying through his stache like that, just turned me off.

      Actually, Gaylord Perry and Bobby Bonds were traded (Suddenly Not Sam McDowell and Bobby Mercilessly) and I hate both trades with a vengence. Foster too, even though he was just a phenom at that time.

      I wasn't around for Cepeda, and Maddux I was not that torn up about. Gary Mathews more so, but still not like Bobby or Chris Speier, or even Dave Kingman. I was more torn up about losing Ken Henderson than I was Maddux or Mathews.

      Not my theory that clubs know their players and prospects best. It was a study that I quoted from The Hardball Times 2012 Annual (if I got my source right).

      Yes, it would be a shame if either Zito or Rowand's contracts hinder future moves. But collosal mistakes like that (or trading George Herman Ruth to the Yankees) will do that.

      I think Cain's elbow issues are also looming as a factor as well. Was Tom Seaver chronically having elbow problems? I'm no doctor, but that does not bode well for me. That's why I'm leery, that's why I like DrB's suggestion of boosting the salary in order to get a shorter contract.

    3. Hang on with the chronic elbow problems. That is not what has gone on or is going on with Cain. There was the dustup last spring training and then Baggs leaked out the Giants got spooked by x-rays and voided the extra year on the deal. I wouldn't call that chronic or untypical for a pitcher. I'll give you that Cain has some mileage on the arm, no doubt, but he's taken the bump always.

      Yeah, I got creative with the ex-Giants regrets and mixed in trades and FA departures. Trades were the name of the game back in the day, they were still boneheaded and fans remember them for a long long time. The Kent situation was the one I was thinking about when I mentioned personalities rubbing. The fact Thompson got a contract and they let Clark walk still makes me mad. If you look at what Kent and Clark made, and their production, it was a total joke to let them walk.

      I think one point I'm trying to make is the Giants are sitting on a powder keg. They are being cheap when they need to be generous. That's my view on this. I'm hoping that you are right, and its just business negotiations and it'll square up at the deadline. But I have some lingering doubts about that, based on the facts assembled about the Gints ownership group. This is not the time to be penny wise, its time to be pound foolish.

      2 more scenarios. What if the Giants have only offered 4/70 or 5/75? And on the flip, what if Cain's agents are asking for 7/150? What if they are so far apart there isn't even a conversation? My point here is we don't know. So on one hand its good to be cool and let it play out. On the other hand, based on the limited facts (leaks to reporters, mumbles on both sides) plus the twisted history of the Giants ownership and fans justified skepticism, we may have a problem.

      I think its good to have a problem. Things that are important deserve attention and heated discussion. Matt Cain is important. I hate the rage at our 25th player issues. I don't mind rage about a franchise cornerstone. For me, I'm hoping like hell Larry Baer properly understands what is at stake and is gladhanding and cajoling. One thing that should be clear but isn't to some fans: this decision is completely out of Sabean's hands. This is a RDF decision coming down.

      Kawakami just put up a Cain post, to complement Poole's piece. I think I liked TK's more.

    4. Thanks for the tips on Poole and TK.

      I have to think the elbow is an issue. That was the major reason given by Baggarly that another year of the last extension was taken away from Cain.

      Poole, first I must state that I like his writing in general, but mostly in regards to Oakland teams. But his Giants columns haven't been up to those standards. It is the old rubric, go with what you know.

      His whole premise of his article is that the Giants signing Cain is a sign that they are willing to stretch the budget. The budget has nothing to do with Cain's signing, there is plenty of budget in the 2013-2017 time frame to sign Cain, only Zito's big contract is still on the books in 2013, Rowand, Huff, and Sanchez's contracts are all off that season.

      Poole gets into what your point: nobody among us knows what Cain is asking for. He presumes that the $108M that Darvish got is the ballpark for Cain. Same for me. To your point, you are right, we don't really know.

      He also neglects to note that Darvish's situation is nothing like Cain's, part of the money that Texas paid was a premium to negotiate solely with Darvish, whereas Cain could talk with any team he wants, should he go free agent.

      I agree with you, I like TK's more than Poole's. A LOT more.

      But TK is also lacking. He notes that signing Cain is a must because of all the sell outs. I can buy that. But he goes with a market rate of $105M/5 years. Again, to your point, we don't know what he is asking for. Again, to my point, if the Giants gave that up early, Cain's agents would have then wormed their way to ask for more money. We don't know what the Giants are ultimately willing to pay, but we all have the same data on existing contracts, and clearly something in the ballpark of $20M per season is about right.

      But mostly, I agree with his points ( for those searching all over for it like me :^), he lists five very good reasons why the Giants should sign Cain, as long as he's being reasonable with his contract demands. On that, I totally agree.

      My concern has been that his agents are not being reasonable with their demands. Particularly in light of his elbow issues. I know pitchers pitch with aches and pains, and in relative terms, I concede that he has been very healthy, a horse as you put it. Still, he's been held out twice, and had serious enough troubles that a year was taken off an extension. That's something the Giants doctors would advise on.

      But given that scenario that TK paints, yes, the Giants better sign Cain.

    5. All I can say on this topic is that the Braves found a way to keep Maddux, Smoltz & Galvine together for a long time that coincided with their annual in-contention status. There were injuries & risks along the way, but they stood by them. The Giants can learn a lesson from that.



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