By Scott Barzilla

The sale of the Dodgers sent shock waves through the industry. The sale price is now supposedly 2.15 billion dollars. Magic Johnson’s group is open for business and they obviously targeted this coming offseason as a key to their resurgence. Players like Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, and Joey Votto were set to become free agents. Now, you can wipe two names off of that list. Furthermore, there are rumblings that the Brewers and Phillies are working on extensions for their star pitchers.

I’ve never made any bones about the fact that I have never been a big Brian Sabean fan. The Matt Cain contract is yet another example of why. The right-hander is due to be the highest paid right-handed pitcher in history. Yesterday, he agreed to a six year 127.5 million dollar extension. As best I can figure, that amounts to a little more than 21 million a season over the life of the deal. Add in Barry Zito’s salary and Tim Lincecum’s salary and you can see that three fifth’s of the rotation is making well over 50 percent of the total team payroll.

  • Matt Cain: 21.3 million
  • Tim Lincecum: 18.0 million (22.o million in 2013)
  • Barry Zito: 19.0 million (27.0 million in 2013 if you count 7 million buyout)

So, if we do the math for this season we’ll see that the three pitchers total to earn 58.3 million. In 2013 that could jump to over 70 million if you count the seven million buyout for Zito’s deal on the 2013 books. That’s an insane amount of money to pay to three pitchers and while Zito will eventually go off the books, Madison Bumgarner will eventually be added to the list of high priced pitchers.

One thing I will give to Cain is that he has been remarkably consistent in his six full seasons. After his first full season (where he had 190 innings), he’s managed to go 200 or more innings in each season. That’s pretty remarkable and his ERA has never gone above 3.76 in the past five seasons. Unfortunately, consistence and dominance often get confused. His TRI scores have ranged between 17.7 and 19.0 during those five years. That puts him squarely between the likes of Trevor Cahill, Matt Garza, and Carl Pavano on the low end and Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, and Ricky Romero on the high end. Those are good pitchers, but there isn’t a 20 million dollar one in the bunch.

So, the long and short of it is that the Giants just gave superstar money to a pitcher that has always been good and sometimes very good, but never great. Maybe I’m not up with the cost of inflation, but if I’m going to pay a pitcher 100 million dollars or more they better be a legitimate staff ace.

Joey Votto is a different story entirely. That doesn’t make his contract any better necessarily, but at least the Reds are making hay in the short-term. This year will be his age 28 season which means that his ten year 225 million dollar contract will stretch him through his age 38 season. What are the odds that he will be productive enough to justify that money at that point? Still, according to TRI, Votto is the best first baseman in the game right now and they effectively got him for the midpoint between Albert Pujols contract and Prince Fielder’s contract. In essence this is what we call the cost of doing business.

If you want to keep your stud players you have to pay market value for their services. Now, the Reds are in a bind going into the next offseason. They have Brandon Phillips needing an extension and pitchers like Mat Latos may become arbitration eligible. For the Giants, they will have to find someone to scrape up enough nickels to build an offensive attack. The hangover usually follows binge spending and this case will be no different.

Scott Barzilla

Scott Barzilla is the editor in chief at hardballchat.com. He is also the author of four books, including The Hall of Fame Index. The Hall of Fame Index was nominated for the Sporting News Award for statistical innovation in 2011.

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