Last year at this time, this was Matt Cain Chronicles. Matt Cain this, Matt Cain that. Will Matt Cain be a Dodger? Matt Cain will probably be a Dodger. We're going to lose 85 games because we didn't re-sign Carlos Beltran, and then Matt Cain is going to leave for the Dodgers after the season. Oh, no. No no no no no no.
At least, that's what I was secretly thinking. The Giants hadn't come that close to a popular player leaving through free agency since Barry Bonds, and even then, everyone knew he was coming back. But Matt Cain signed a deal for a lot of money. Enough money to make a fan nervous in the middle of all the elation and relief.
Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez has agreed to a seven-year, $175 million contract that should be finalized before spring training, making him the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history, a person familiar with the contract details told USA TODAY Sports.
There are differences between Felix Hernandez and Matt Cain. The first is that Cain was 27 when he signed his extension, Felix will be … a few days short of 27 when this season starts. Hernandez has been worth 31.5 wins over his eight seasons, with a 127 ERA+, 1,620 innings pitched, a perfect game, and an impeccable record of health, whereas Cain has been worth 29.2 wins over his eight seasons, with a 124 ERA+, a perfect game, and an impeccable record of health over his 1,536 innings pitched.
Okay, they're pretty freaking similar.
Last year, Cain agreed to a five year, $112.5 million extension that started after the 2012 season, with a team option for the sixth year. This is what I wrote at the time:
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 from just this offseason:
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.
When I wrote that, I wondered if I was being too hyperbolic, if the Dodgers really would have spent that much. After all, no right-hander had ever come close to those numbers. And now, with the billion-dollar Dodgers scaring the lemons off every single team when it comes to their young franchise players, a team like the Mariners is willing to blow past what Matt Cain got just a year ago.
Which is all to say, the Giants locked up their young pitchers at exactly the right time. A couple of weeks after the Giants locked up Cain, they really locked up Madison Bumgarner. And the the Dodgers sale went through. Then they literally flew Zack Greinke to the moon in a space shuttle for contract talks, just to show they could. Literally. Everything went kind of goofy after that.
The result is a Felix Hernandez contract that's two years longer and $63 million more than a Matt Cain contract. That's kind of a big deal.
We'll see what these contracts look like in 2015, so it's not time to suggest the Giants have the greatest contract in the history of professional contracts. But it's almost certain the Giants saved tens of millions of dollars by not letting Cain get to free agency this offseason, and considering what Hernandez got, they could have saved scores of millions.
Also, Matt Cain.