Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2010 Salary – 3 Aces but No Clubs

Looking at the salaries for the Giants in 2009 ($82-88M) and what they have committed in 2010 (+ what they will likely commit because of the arbitration process (Lincecum, J. Sanchez and Wilson), it doesn’t look too good. Everyone thought they had a ton of salary coming off the books, and they did. They dropped about $31 M with Johnson, Winn, Molina, Dave Roberts and Howry. But if you add back what they owe in addition to last year (Rowand goes up, Renteria goes slightly up, Cain goes a little up, plus adding the salary of F. Sanchez) as well as what the arbitration eligible players will make… it is almost a wash. Lincecum alone will probably make between $10 and $13 M more than he did in 2009.

The Giants will have to add payroll to acquire anyone. I’m not talking about the big fish. I’m talking about Nick Johnson, Mark DeRosa and the like. If they added Bay or Holliday, that would certainly probably be everything if not quite a bit more than what they could potentially afford. After looking at this more closely it is easy to see that it won’t be easy to improve the offense even marginally. Also, you understand why Sabean has yet to pull the trigger on any player. Ownership appears to want to keep the salary at about the $90 M range and, quite simply, after arbitration and without adding a single additional player they will nearly be there. If you look at their starting rotation alone and you assume they stick with Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner, that alone would be about 45% of their 2009 salary. Then they still have to pay Rowand, Renteria and 18 others.

You know what is also pretty obvious when you look at it? There is no way they can keep all 3 (Zito, Cain and Lincecum). They cannot afford to keep all three unless they agree to increase payroll quite dramatically over the next 4 seasons. It’s pretty simple. What team in MLB can afford to pay the salaries of 3 aces? Perhaps the Red Sox and Yankees but no others. I say 3 aces because Zito (Mr. Albatross Contract) is paid like one, Lincecum who will command an arbitration record salary in 2010 is on the door-step of being paid like one and Matt Cain isn’t far behind.

The italicized salaries in red show my predictions, which are modest, and everything in black is fact and of course we are talking millions. This is the cost of only 60% of their starting rotation and 12% of their active roster. Something has to give.

The arbitration years for Tim Lincecum are, ’10, ’11, ’12, and ’13 (Arb 1-4). I really wish Mr. Lincecum would do 5 years $60 M (which would buy out his first year of free agency) rather than doing year by year. He’s essentially risking future money for a higher annual salary by doing so. That can be dangerous because he’s a pitcher. Lincecum is what they call a “Super two.” It happens when a player has 2 + years of major league experience and it fluctuates year to year based on the 2+ year candidates, determining in effect which of the 2+ players will be arbitration eligible. Mark Reynolds (the slugger with 40 jacks for the Diamondbacks) missed the Super two by a few days. Lincecum made the super two deadline by a couple of weeks, which made him and cost the Giants millions.

Lincecum has already said he is going to shoot for a 1 year deal via arbitration, which is partly to appease the players union. Quite frankly, the Giants will not be able to afford all 3 players beyond 2011. They could, but it will almost certainly cement there inability to field a more balanced club of strong pitching and strong offense. The Giants potentially have another Ace in the wings in Madison Bumgarner who they will be able to pay about $400,000 to $500,000 for the next 3 seasons. They also have 27 year old Jonathon Sanchez who misses so many bats you can’t help but to envision him having a promising and possibly dominant future. Zito is immovable and thus isn’t going anywhere. Lincecum has taken baseball and the Giants by storm and is one of the most promising young pitchers in the history of baseball. He isn’t going anywhere either. Matt Cain is 24 years old. Matt Cain had his best professional season in 2009. Matt Cain is still under control for the next two seasons at an extremely economical price. Essentially, Matt Cain is probably one of the most valuable pitchers in MLB based on years of control, ability and $ cost. That is undeniable. I’ll end this post with a simple question for Giants fans. Cain’s value will never be higher in the next two seasons as it is right now, should Sabean sell high?

One last parting thought: Pablo Sandoval’s first year of arbitration will be in 2012, i.e. the same year Cain would become a free-agent

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