48. Matt Cain, SP, San Francisco – Signed through 2017 for $128 million.
So much for being overpaid. The best way to show you’re worth your shiny new contract is to dramatically up your strikeout rate while cutting your walks at the same time — well, as long as you’re a pitcher, anyway — and post career bests nearly across the board. Cain has transformed from durable innings eater into a legitimate ace, and even with salaries of $20 million per year kicking in, he’s the kind of guy that contenders would love to add to their rotation. He’s not cheap, but he’s good enough to still command a serious haul even with his new contract.
13 spots later, Pablo appears, declaring his 3 year contract super valuable for his production:
35. (NR) Pablo Sandoval, 3B, San Francisco – Signed through 2014 for $15 million.
Every team in baseball is looking for young hitting, and many of them are wondering where all the third baseman with power went. Sandoval is one of the few good young offensive 3Bs in the game — his career line of .306/.356/.499 is good for a 125 wRC+ — as he doesn’t turn 26 for a few more weeks. He’s had problems staying healthy the last couple of years and the Giants only bought out his arbitration years when they signed him to a three year extension, which drive down his value a bit, but his power and contact skills are rare enough that he’d command a strong return if put on the open market.
Last year, everyone was up in arms at the absence of MadBum on this list. This year, he makes an appearance, but is underrated yet again. As I mention in the comments,
What would you rather have?
2 yrs of King Felix and $9M
or 7!! Years of MadBum
It’s a no brainer, IMO.
At least Fangraphs is doing the mea culpa for last year:
19. (NR) Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco – Signed through 2019 for $58 million
Okay Giants fans, you win. Bumgarner’s absence from last year’s list brought plenty of criticism, and it was simply a poor call on my end to exclude him. Now, with another year of quality pitching under his belt and a very friendly contract — the first five guaranteed years only call for $35 million in total — Bumgarner not only makes the list, but rates as one of the more valuable pitchers in the game. There aren’t many 22-year-olds who can throw strikes as regularly as Bumgarner can, and he gets enough strikeouts and groundballs to make the overall package work. He might not be a classic ace, but he’s a good pitcher with a very good contract, and every team in baseball would love to have him.
And finally, at #12, the only Giant on this list without a long-term contract, the Man himself.
12. (27) Buster Posey, C, San Francisco – Under Team Control through 2016
Posey has come back from his broken leg and been better than ever, and probably doesn’t get enough credit for the Giants success in recent years. He’s already at +8.5 WAR in just under 1,000 career plate appearances, so he’s contributed at a near MVP level pretty much since the day he arrived in the big leagues. He’s even added walks to round out his offensive game, and based on the factors that we can judge with some degree of certainty, he appears to be one of the game’s best defensive catchers as well. The questions about how long he’ll remain at catcher and his Super Two status mean that he might be an expensive first baseman by the time he reaches free agency, but for the next several years, he’s one of baseball’s great bargains. While the pitchers (and more recently, Melky Cabrera) have gotten most of the attention, Posey is the straw that stirs the drink in San Francisco.