Jason O. Watson
If you want a trip back in a time machine, look back at the community projection for Matt Cain and read how worried we all were about Matt Cain leaving the Giants. That was a thing once -- the monster under our bed. I was so worried the Yankees were going to sign him.
If we all knew Dodgers were going to act like they were on shore leave with fistfuls of cash, we would have started a hunger strike until Cain was signed.
The Giants signed him. And considering what Cole Hamels signed for (6/$133 million with a $20 million option) and what Zack Greinke signed for ($49 billion, a Hawaiian island, and all of the benefits of being a werewolf without any of the downside), the remaining five years and $107.5 million (with a $21 million option) on Cain's deal is below-market value. Man, that happened quickly. It's amazing what a healthy, excellent year already in the books will do to the perception of that deal.
If that deal wasn't in place, Matt Cain would be a Dodger. I know you would like to think Cain is too pure, that he knows his flesh would peel back the second the Dodgers' uniform touched it. But the Dodgers would have offered him so much money -- so much more than the Giants -- that he would have temporarily forgotten about that. He would have sat around a kitchen table with his wife, head in hands, thinking about what the extra $20 million could mean for future generations of Cain, for favorite charities, for ailing schools, for hovercrafts with cloaking devices that allow you to sneak up on ducks and shoot the hell out of them.
In the very, very best-case scenario, the Giants would have kept him by beating (or coming close to) the Dodgers' offer. Greinke is signed for an extra year and $40 million more than Cain as of right now. If the Giants were involved, the Dodgers would have done some National Geographic crap -- something between a silverback beating its chest and a hyena tinkling on a tree -- to prove their natural dominance in the free-agent world. It wouldn't have been just a free-agent signing to them; it would have been a cause.
I could see Cain having signed for six years, $160 million. On the open market. Heck, I can see him signing for seven years, $190 million. Not because he's so much better than Greinke, but because the Dodgers would have been willing to pay whatever it took. They would have been like a seven-year-old saying "Infinity plus one! Infinity plus a million!" The chance to weaken a blood rival, both on the field and in the public-relations arena, would have been a once-in-a-decade chance, and it would have happened to come up when the new Dodgers owners were willing and eager to make a point.
Baer said he didn't expect the Dodgers sale would have a major impact on the free-agent market next winter.
Well, say, about that. The Dodgers are crazier and looser with their money than anyone expected. I seriously wouldn't be surprised at this point if they signed Josh Hamilton and figured out what to do with Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford later.
Considering what they've turned into, let's take a moment to reflect on the good timing of the Giants in April. If there wasn't a Matt Cain extension, there would have been tears. Or a buncha cuss words, at least. The Dodgers were lurking, and they were willing to spend more than even the most pessimistic projections. Instead, Matt Cain is with the Giants, and he's on a fair-but-reasonable deal for the next five years. With an option!
If you're baking holiday cookies, send a batch to the front office. They've earned at least one, as Matt Cain is not a Dodger. Phew.