First Joey Votto and now Matt Cain.
Said to be working hard on contract negotiations over the weekend, the Giants just made things official with Cain by announcing a five-year, $112.5 million extension with a sixth-year vesting option.
Cain was already set to earn $15 million this season in the final year of a three-year, $27 million extension signed in March of 2010. That deal covered Cain’s final two arbitration eligible seasons and his first year of free agency. This five-year extension will keep him in San Francisco through his age-32 season in 2017 and the 2018 option includes a $7.5 million buyout.
Obviously any $100 million-plus investment in a pitcher is extremely risky and $22 million per season is a ton, especially for a team that learned (and is still learning) the hard way with Barry Zito, but limiting the commitment to five years and avoiding Cain’s mid-30s lessens the Giants’ risk somewhat and he’s been remarkably consistent with a 3.35 career ERA and at least 190 innings in each of his six full seasons.
On a related note, the Phillies would no doubt be thrilled if Cole Hamels accepted a five-year, $112.5 million deal. Hamels has better secondary numbers than Cain and has pitched in a hitter-friendly ballpark, but their raw numbers are very similar: 3.39 ERA in 1,161 innings for Hamels. 3.35 ERA in 1,317 innings for Cain.
I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.
Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.
This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.
Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.