All winter long we heard two consistent storylines regarding Joey Votto and Matt Cain. Votto, due to be a free agent after 2013, was going to cost $200+ million and the Reds wouldn’t be able to keep him. Cain was a free agent after 2012 and the Giants’ finances were tight enough that they might not be able to retain him and other key players.
Suggestions were made that the Reds trade Votto. GM Walt Jocketty said he wasn’t trading Votto; wasn’t interested in trading Votto; wasn’t listening to offers on Votto.
But it went on and on.
The most ludicrous suggestion came from Dave Cameron who wanted the Reds to trade Votto and Yasmani Grandal to the Mariners for a package that included Michael Pineda, Brandon League and Chone Figgins.
I said at the time that the only thing the Mariners could do to get Jocketty to accept that package for Votto is to put a gun to his head.
There were other trade scenarios for Votto presented in print and online; this in spite of Jocketty’s increasingly flustered protestations that he had zero interest in moving his star first baseman.
Now Votto is close to an extension and, at age 28, has a better chance to be productive and healthy for the duration of the contract than the other two first basemen who signed similar deals—Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols.
Votto is in better shape than Fielder and younger than Pujols; he hits the ball out of the park, puts up huge on-base numbers, is a good fielder and can run.
The Giants were facing the reality of having to pay Cain after this season and then pay Tim Lincecum after next season—a daunting prospect.
But they signed Cain today and his agreement—said to guarantee $127.5 million over 5 years—is for less than what he’d get if he were to go out on the free agent market.
The salary and length are reasonable in comparison to what other pitchers are getting. CC Sabathia, at age 31, signed a 5-year extension with the Yankees that guarantees him $122 million; Cliff Lee, at age 32, signed a 5-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies.
Cain is 27 and has pitched at least 190 innings in each of his six full big league seasons and 217+ in each of the past four.
His won/lost record is an unimpressive 69-73, but getting past the most simplistic of simplistic numbers, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball whose results—low ERAs, home run numbers and hits allowed—are not a creation of a pitcher-friendly home park. If he were pitching for a team that scored in bunches, he’d have a gaudy won/lost record.
He’s big, durable and tough.
In a team sense, the Giants were staring at either keeping Cain and trying to keep Lincecum; keeping one and letting the other one leave; letting either/or leave and then replacing him with someone who’s not going to be anywhere near as good and probably not all that much cheaper; or trying to alter the template from what they’ve been a successful with over the past several years by seeking run producing bats to replace the departed arms.
Like all long-term contracts, of course there’s a possibility of injury; but with these two players, it’s not as glaring because of their history. Team circumstances were going to be worse if they traded them or let them leave.
The Giants and Reds shunned the supposed wisdom from the self-proclaimed experts and did the right thing by keeping their star players.