The money MLB teams are throwing around these days is staggering. It seems all it takes is one or two productive years and a player can be set for life. But last week, things got entirely out of hand. The San Francisco Giants signed 27-year old starting pitcher Matt Cain to a 6-year, $127.5M contract, making him the highest paid right-handed pitcher in baseball history. You have got to be kidding me! “Big Sugar” as he is known in his hometown of Dothan, Alabama, has certainly squeezed all the sweetness out of Giants GM Brian Sabean. How in the hell does a freakin pitcher like Matt Cain deserve to become the highest paid RHP of all-time? This is an embarrassment to baseball!
To answer my own question, I went straight to MLB stats because I really didn’t know much about Matt Cain (see his stats yourself). In fact, that’s my first point….shouldn’t the highest paid RHP in the history of baseball at least be somebody we all know well? After carefully examining MLB stats, I thought I would instantly see why Cain can command this kind of cash. What I found truly amazed me, and I wanted to share it with you. First of all, in his 7-year MLB career, Matt Cain is just 69-73. He’s not even a 500 pitcher! About the only noteworthy stat I can find on this guy is that he’s averaged 216 innings pitched each year over the last five years. For this he gets over $20M/year? So, I dug a little deeper. Is 200 innings pitched in a season becoming an uncommon achievement these days? You’ll be interested to know it is NOT! Over each of the last five years, there have been no fewer than 33 MLB pitchers that have thrown at least 200 innings. Certainly nothing extraordinary about Matt Cain in this regard!
Matt Cain was a first round pick (25th overall selection) in the 2002 MLB draft. He’s a two-time All-Star. He has a 90-94 mph fastball, a curve, slider, and change. He’s never won more than 14 games in any one season. In the Giants recent World Championship year (2010), he was 13-11, with a 3.14 ERA over 233 innings…….beating the Phillies in the NLCS and also notching a victory in the World Series against the Rangers. Certainly nothing spectacular there……… that’s the kind of performance one would expect from a #2 starter. However, for those two post-season wins, he carries a 0.00 ERA and 0.938 WHIP. So, to his credit, he has been dominant in very limited post-season action. In 2011, the Giants finished out of the playoffs eight games behind the Division-champion Diamondbacks, and Cain was a mere 12-11 with a strong 2.88 ERA (8th lowest in the NL). Still, I am not seeing anything earth-shattering here.
His contract contains an extension clause that, if exercised, would raise his total to $141M over 7 years. His contract also included a $5M signing bonus, and he can earn an additional $500K for winning the Cy Young and $250K for being chosen as the NL MVP. Does his contract really need to “add something” for performance awards he damn well better capture anyway for what he’s being paid! This is ludicrous! Wonder what Tim Lincecum feels about Cain’s contract? He’s been the #1 starter for the Giants since arriving in San Francisco, the same age as Matt Cain, is 69-41 over his 5-year career, already has two Cy Youngs under his belt (2008 and 2009), has been a 4-time All-Star, has been the NL strikeout leader in three of the last four years, and “only” got a 2-year, $40.5M contract back in January. Just think too about what it’s now going to cost (as a result of Cain’s megacontract) to retain the much more established LHP Phillies star, 28-year old Cole Hamels (see his stats), when his current contract expires after this season. The absurdity of Cain’s contract will have damaging economic impacts throughout the game, and if Bud Selig is awake he better start thinking about team salary caps to avoid total League disparity.
I’m stunned, confused, and outraged. If somebody out there can explain why Matt Cain deserves this kind of money, please enlighten me!
Filed under: Pro Baseball
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