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Matt Cain Gets in Line for an Extension

It’s been a busy weekend for the Giants front office. I think they’re currently trying to extend Christy Mathewson as well, but nobody has the heart ot tell Brian Sabaen that Bix Six has been dead for 85 years. The latest victim to the extension craze sweeping through the Bay Area is Matt Cain.

The Giants already held a club option on what was to be Cain’s last club-controlled season, 2011, for $6.25 million (with some possible escalators), but reportedly his new deal guarantees that year and the one after that, what was to be his first free agent season. Early leaks of the money have Cain’s 2010 salary remaining fixed ($4.5 million) with his 2011 salary rising to around $8 million and something above $15 million for 2012.

I’m not sure exactly how to value this deal since it replaces one year of a remaining contract but leaves another intact. It’s compllicated by the fact that Cain’s 2010 salary relative to his arbitration status (second year) values him around $7.5 million on the open market, while the 2011 and 2012 years value him much higher. Were the Giants willing to offer him so much later in the deal because they were getting him cheaply in the first? I don’t like to arbitrate motives so I will analyze both with and without 2010 factored in.

With 2010, this acts like a three year deal that places Cain at about $11.5 million in free market dollars. Without 2010 involved, that goes up to about $13 million. It’s not a huge difference but it is a meaningful one, somewhere around one-third to half a win’s worth of outlay. Lucky for me, no matter which you choose the end result is the same, this is a good deal for the Giants. Matt Cain has been worth over $16 million a year for the past three seasons.

Cain is unlikely to repeat his low 2009 ERA, but he doesn’t need to. All of his core stats and his resulting FIP have been stable and above average for some time now. For this to stay good for the Giants, all Matt Cain has to do is keep being the pitcher he has been since 2005. There’s even some encouraging signs for future success as he has been slowly getting hitters to swing at more and more pitches outside the strike zone. If that continues, he may see some bumps upward in his strikeout rate.