The Cardinals signed Carlos Beltran today to a two-year $25MM deal. It’s an extremely reasonable contract, and one that has the potential to be a bargain if Beltran manages to stay healthy. But even if he doesn’t (which is obviously the more likely scenario), even if he misses 100+ games over the next two years, it’s a pretty solid contract. The Giants had talks with Beltran but they didn’t pursue him very hard, which is naturally frustrating — considering that the Giants had a historically weak offense in 2011, and that they have the resources to facilitate such a signing: It’s Aubrey Huff money, not Prince Fielder money. The organization gave up its top pitching prospect for Beltran, still fell eight games short of winning the division, then made no kind of serious effort to re-sign him.
As it stands now, this offseason looks like somewhat of a mess; Wendy Thurm discussed this at length in a recent Fangraphs article. The Giants entered the offseason with one major need: hitting, hitting, hitting. And while the Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera acquisitions do a little bit to address this, they’re hardly solutions. The team has spent little this winter, and what little they’ve spent has mostly gone to the pair of Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. The vast majority of their free agent spending has gone to a pair of relievers.
But let’s focus on what this is all about: Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. As of this moment in time, it’s hard to conceive why Cain wouldn’t want to test the free agent market. Worse pitchers have been cashing in on lucrative long-term contracts of late, and Cain is a special case in that he becomes a free agent at a relatively young age. Why wouldn’t he want to maximize his potential earnings (and sign with a team that would provide better run support, for that matter)? The same goes for Lincecum, who is set to hit the free agent market a year after Cain. However, this is an area where the Giants know better than anyone else what their odds are of retaining the two. They are, after all, basing their future plans on securing the rotation.
The storyline today is something like this:
The Giants, who sold out every single home game this season, weren’t willing to shell out an extra $10MM for 2012 in order to retain a hitter that would have substantially improved their offense — a hitter for whom they gave up their top pitching prospect. Instead, they chose to allocate most of their funds toward retaining a pair of LOOGYs.
This is a gross oversimplification, but that’s largely how it’s been perceived. Maybe that’ll be the case once Opening Day comes around. Maybe it won’t. If the Giants extend both Lincecum and Cain, they effectively extend their window of opportunity. Huff and Aaron Rowand come off the books in 2013, and the Giants will conceivably have a solid hitting core formed by that point in Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval, and Gary Brown. Again, it’s hard to see both Lincecum and Cain settling on extensions before hitting free agency, but the team seems to have structured their plans on retaining the two, so they must feel confident in their abilities to do so. For the time being, I’m willing to give the organization the benefit of the doubt.