On the Giants' self-imposed payroll cap ...

The State of the Baer address below has drawn a lot of Twitticism. Larry Baer and Greg Papa had a six-minute conversation on Chronicle Live, and it roughly translated to:

You like Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, right? Well, that's how we're spending our money. We're going to keep them if possible. That means we're not signing Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, or Jose Reyes. Not a chance. We're going to look at the Aubrey Huffs of the world to try and move our offense from "wretched" to "meh." The cheap, surprisingly effective Aubrey Huffs. Not the expensive, surprisingly crappy Aubrey Huffs. Just trust us.

Or to be a little bit more cynical and direct …

We're going to keep everything exactly the same and hope for better luck.

The Giants will still have a top-ten payroll, but the problem is that most of it is already tied up in Huff, Barry Zito, and Aaron Rowand. And they're probably thinking that the last time they spent big on premium players like Zito and Rowand, it totally backfired, not realizing that those deals were jokes the instant they were announced. A mega-deal to a legitimate star like Prince Fielder would not be quite as amusing.

The conversation didn't fill me with quite the same level of dread that it did for others here, though. Because as a sentimentalist who can still warm himself by his Official 2010 World Champions Outdoor Patio Heater and Toaster Oven Combo, if you could guarantee me this …

Cain/Lincecum combined WAR Fielder/Reyes combined WAR
2014 10 12
2015 11 12
2016 11 13
2017 9 10
2018 7 8


If you could guarantee me that Fielder and Reyes would be a little more valuable and cost-effective over the next six or seven years, I'd still prefer Cain and Lincecum. This has a lot to do with Fielder and Reyes not being Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum. And maybe this is a silly, silly way to root for a team, but I'm sticking with it. I'd rather have Cain and Lincecum, while trying to find offense under rocks. That's exactly what Baer is hoping people will think. I've been duped. I fell right into his trap.

But there's a difference between "we're not spending for Fielder" and "we're not spending a dime, so let's hope that Freddy Sanchez's shoulders and knees don't get near a glass of milk because they're made from a delicious Oreo crust, and milk will make them all soggy and fall-aparty." Considering how expensive Cain, Lincecum, and way down the road, Bumgarner are going to get, I'd rather have Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran for a combined $70 million over the next couple of years than Prince Fielder and Brandon Crawford for $150 million over the next seven. I'd rather have Jimmy Rollins for $50 million than Jose Reyes for $100 million if it means there's a better chance to re-sign Lincecum and Cain both.

The idea that the Giants can afford Linecum, Cain, Reyes, Fielder, Pujols, Kobe Bryant, and Paul McCartney for the next six years? Could be true. It seems like they're making more way more money than they have ever made, and they should be up with the Phillies and Red Sox instead of down with the Twins and Tigers.

That's the part that's annoying people around here -- the artificial cap on payroll. The owners are going to find a balance between spending and earning, just like they have for the last decade. I'd grumble more if they weren't still a top-ten payroll team, but it's still an annoying philosophy as a fan. Not spending to get the best of the best free agents will always be annoying to spoiled fans, a group of which I'm proud to be a part.

But I'll hold off on the nasty criticism for now. If the offseason brings Coco Crisp and some extra-special fairy-kiss wishes that Aubrey Huff will get better, the Giants will deserve all the criticism they'll get. But there are ways to improve the offense without committing to a $100M+ contract that could screw up a future with both Lincecum and Cain.  I think that's what Baer was getting at. I hope that's what Baer was getting at.

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