The fears are gone. The night terrors. The waking nightmares. The recurring feeling that Magic Johnson was whistling at this very moment as he quietly counted stacks of hundred-dollar bills that were earmarked for Matt Cain. Matt Cain will be a Giant. You can rest easy. Matt Cain will be a Giant.
It's official. Including the 2012 season, it's basically a six-year, $127.5 million deal, and there's an option that could bring that up to seven years and $141 million.
Good gravy, that's a lot of money.
But the fears are gone. There will be no Matt Cain in Dodger blue. No Matt Cain in Yankee pinstripes. No Matt Cain in … Marlin burnt cerise. It's a gonna be Matt Cain in French vanilla until 2017, maybe 2018, maybe forever, and that reads pretty sweet to me.
So now with the fears banished, we can step back and look at the contract somewhat objectively. It's six years. That's not too bad, considering. It's certainly not a hometown discount. I think the seven-year deal for pitchers is mostly dead. Sort of think that Barry Zito killed it. He just keeps proving his value over and over and over.
And the money? It's the kind of money that will make a difference. If the Giants are committed to a $130 million payroll, or thereabouts, the Giants will have $108 million to spend on 24 players and Matt Cain. That's not an impossible situation. But it'll make a difference. The Giants won a World Series while they were paying Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand not to play in the postseason. They also lost out on Carlos Beltran and other offensive upgrades because they were paying Zito and Rowand. It's not the kind of money that will ruin a team's chances to contend if Cain declines or gets hurt. But it'll make a difference, especially if the farm system isn't producing.
But I didn't see how the Giants had a choice. Just about everything that's going right for them at the current time has to do with the starting pitching. If the Giants were going to enjoy the packed houses and high television ratings, they were going to have to keep the starting pitching together. There certainly isn't any coming out of the minors, at least not soon. The Giants' other option was to start spitting hitters out to join Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, helping the Giants win on a budget. Brandon Belt could be one of those guys, as could Gary Brown and Joe Panik.
This is still the Giants, though -- the team that counted Marvin Benard and Bill Mueller as the organizational triumphs between Matt Williams and Pablo Sandoval. It's great that there are some homegrown hitters after the two-decade drought, but it's probably not a good idea to shift the organizational philosophy away from pitching.
And if the philosophy was going to remain pitching-based, and there aren't any Zack Wheelers left, the Giants had to sign Cain or make do with two lesser free agents and hope the fans didn't notice. Say, Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt. That might have been a better baseball play. But from a PR perspective, the fallout of Cain succeeding elsewhere while his replacements floundered would be almost incalculable. That's just one scenario. But it would have been the quickest way for the ownership to tinkle away the goodwill built up from the championship.
The championship. The thing that happened after three playoff rounds. The three playoff rounds in which Matt Cain did not allow an earned run. After coming up as a Giant when he was 20 and suffering through four horrific losing seasons. After being as dependable as any pitcher in the league. After being the first of the first-round picks to lead the San Francisco Giants where they'd never been before.
Okay, so it's still to early to be objective. Matt Cain. Matt Cain. Matt Cain. He'll be around for a while. Matt Cain.