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Matt Cain: The Last Hope of the Offseason

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September 1, 2011
Maybe the Giants should just say nuts to everything, and sign Prince Fielder to an eight-year deal. Belt can play left, and I'm not sure what 2018 would bring, but they'd sure have a sweet middle of the order next season.

October 1, 2011
Golly, sure would be nice to see the Giants get Jose Reyes. It'd probably be a disaster of a contract at the end, but he's exactly what they'd need next year.

October 15, 2011
Okay, well, at least they should go after Rafael Furcal.

November 1, 2011
Just Beltran. For the love of all that is holy, just Beltran. That's all we ask. Here is some money for a $40 t-shirt. I'll take the Matt Herges shirsey you have in the back. Please, just sign Beltran.

December 27, 2011 through March 1, 2012
Fine, you win. Just sign Matt Cain before the season starts. Don't let him think about the Red Sox after his 16th 2-1 loss in 2012. Sign him now.

The entire offseason has been a model of Kubler-Ross bargaining. The grief and anger flare up here and there, and the acceptance might not ever come, but the bargaining is a slow toboggan ride down a snowless hill. It's almost 2012, and the Giants' last real hope is for Aubrey Huff to rebound. If he's going to play every day when the manager knows he didn't take his conditioning seriously, he's going to play when his manager thinks that's no longer true. So he might as well be good, dammit. Here's hoping.

While there's no way to make this a good offseason, there's still a way to keep it from being a monumentally wretched offseason. For the first time in his Giants career, Matt Cain is entering a walk year. If things stay as they are right now, Cain might be on a different team at this time next year. He might still be a free agent, dating other teams right in front of us. He will be cruel about it. We will bare our souls to people who won't care. We will write crappy poems about it.

A Cain extension is the new hope of the offseason, then. It's the last acceptable bargain. We started the offseason like spoiled brats asking for a motorcycle, and we ended it like sad, shivering whelps in a closet, asking for a few stale crusts to be slid under the door. And still complaining that we didn't get the motorcycle, much to the annoyance of a lot of folks, but mostly interested in the bread crusts.

A rough benchmark would be Jered Weaver's five year, $85 million contract extension. Weaver hasn't had a run of success as lengthy as Cain's, but he's been a 200-inning guy who picks up Cy Young votes. He's two years older than Cain, so it's not a perfect parallel, but then again Cain has never had a season as nice as Weaver's 2011. While the Weaver contract was widely lauded as a bargain, it's worth noting that it was a Boras-negotiated product. It probably wasn't drastically under market.

When taking ballpark into account, C.J. Wilson has been better than Cain over the past two years, but he was a reliever before that, and he's already 31. His five year/$77.5 million contract is somewhat useful as a comparison -- especially when you figure that the competition of the open market allows for some inflation that you might not see with an extension -- but Cain should be more expensive.

The one thing I do get from the Weaver and Wilson contracts, though: It isn't crazy to think that Cain could sign for five years. It's not crazy, but it might not be likely. Here's a comparison that might be more apt, even if it's scarier: CC Sabathia for seven years, $161 million. Sabathia entered free agency as a 28-year-old, as would Cain. And while it's weird to think about now, Sabathia wasn't always Crazy Joe Innings Eater -- he topped 240 innings in each of the two seasons before free agency, but he usually fell just shy of 200 innings in every season before that. It's unlikely that Cain would get nearly that much, though.

When it comes to preventing runs, Cain is roughly Sabathia's equal (both have a career 125 ERA+), and he's younger than both Wilson and Weaver when they signed their contracts. Something splitting the difference, then? Six years will make up for the gap between Cain and the older pitchers, and an average annual value of somewhere between Wilson and Sabathia's first Yankees' deal, erring on the low side, seems right. If I had to guess -- with the disclaimer that I'm at least a little clueless about this stuff -- I'd wager that a six-year, $100 million contract would be on the high side of reasonable, with the outside chance of Cain telling his agent to "gimme a Weaver."

I wasn't expecting Fielder or Reyes. I was hoping for Beltran, but I certainly wasn't expecting him back. Here's the difference between those players and Cain: I am 100%, no-foolin' expecting a Cain extension before the season starts. The front office and ownership essentially promised us as much when explaining why they couldn't pay Beltran, Reyes, Furcal, Alex Gonzalez, the other Alex Gonzalez, or either Jeff D'Amico.

Cain. Give us Cain. This offseason should be whapped on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. Bad offseason! Bad! But here's hoping that the Giants can at least scrape some of the bad feelings on the side of the curb.