Posted on: March 4, 2012 4:53 pm

Giants' hope to keep Cain below $100M unsure now

There was a belief around baseball that Giants star Matt Cain was going to be an easy sign for the Giants. Now that doesn't seem quite so certain.

Word going around the game a few back was that Cain, who's eligible for free agenxy after the season, might even be prepared to sign back with the Giants for less than $100 million. Now that seems far less likely.

The Giants offered at least $100 million on a five-year deal to ace Tim Lincecum but according to sources started negotiations significantly lower than that to Cain, who would be the staff ace in many other players but is clearly No. 2 to Lincecum in San Francisco. Meantime, there were whispers around the game that Cain -- who once signed a $27-million, three-year deal that covered his arbitration years and turned out to be very team friendly -- wasn't prepared to pursue top dollar on the open market.

However, Cain's comments so far in spring training certainly have done nothing to foster the idea that he is a slam-dunk sign. He recently told Giants writers in Scottsdale, Ariz., "I believe both sides would like to have something resolved, whether that's signing back or not. Once the season starts, I want to be thinking about the season. That's my main goal.''

It isn't known for sure whether Cain's stance has changed, but there are definitely indications he's at least open to leaving. Sometime in the last several weeks, his longtime agent Landon Williams was hired by CAA Baseball, a large agency. Whether that was a factor in Cain's stance isn't known either. Cain's new CAA rep Jeff Berry, who's working with Williams on the high-profile case, declined comment the other day when asked about the situation.

But consider that CAA negotiated Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's $100-million, six-year extension, and Zimmerman had two years to go before free agency (to Cain's one) as well as a history of injuries (Cain has none). Some baseball people say they believe Cain's true comp is Cliff Lee and his $120-million deal, while others say he could even top that on the open market; while Lee has shown more dominance, Cain would be a considerably younger free agent.

The best guess here is that Cain still winds up staying with the Giants. He is homegrown guy who has shown inclinations of preferring to stay in the past even if doesn't seem like quite the certainty anymore. One thing seems sure, though, the Giants' great hope to keep the contract below $100 million looks like a major long shot now.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:31 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 3:44 pm

The Winter Standings, from 1 through 30

The Angels and Marlins spent plenty, the Astros stood pat, and the Mets did worse than that. Here they, one through 30, from most improved team to least improved.

1. Angels. Anytime you add Albert Pujols when you don't really need a first baseman, that's quite a luxury buy. Maybe 10 years are too many, but he'll obviously make a major impact in the first years of that deal. C.J. Wilson gives them as good a first four as just about anyone. Plus, he comes directly from the main competitor.

2. Marlins. Jose Reyes is a monster get, when healthy, Mark Buehrle fits as the perfect veteran lefthander to pitch behind Josh Johnson and Heath Bell is a very good closer. Ozzie Guillen spices things up. Much more interesting team as they move to their new park.

3. Diamondbacks. Loved that they didn't rest on their laurels. Trevor Cahill bolsters their rotation and Jason Kubel their lineup. Also tried hard for Hiroki Kuroda, offering him $13 million, $3 million more than he got from the Yankees. Terrific effort by a team in an area hit hard by the economic downturn.

4. Nationals. I don't love Gio Gonzalez's 1.48 lifetime road WHIP, but he's a talented, young lefthanded starter who's exactly what they needed. Of course, they still could use a center fielder.

5. Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda is the solid starter they needed, and Michael Pineda has a chance to be better than that, especially if he masters his changeup. Jesus Montero will be a mega star but they needed the pitching, so it was a worthwhile gamble. A.J. Burnett is addition by subtraction.

6. Rockies. Michael Cuddyer is a huge get, even if he did cost $31.5 million over three years. Jeremy Guthrie steps in as the Opening Day starter and Tyler Chatwood has a chance, though rotation questions still remain. Casey Blake might not have a lot left at third base, but super prospect Nolan Arenado looks to be close.

7. Rangers. Yu Darvish is going to be better than Wilson. They flirted with Prince Fielder, but came up a few years short. Had they pulled that one off, too, they would have easily topped this list. A lefthander in the pen wouldn't have hurt, either.

8. Rays. Carlos Pena will bring a lot more punch than Casey Kotchman, and if healthy, Luke Scott brings more still. Somehow, they find a way.

9. Blue Jays. Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero and Darren Oliver represent a nice bullpen upgrade over Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. Never made the huge deal folks were expecting, though.

10. Reds. They gave up a lot for Matt Latos, a talented pitcher who'll have to adjust going from pitching-firendly PETCO Park to Great American Ballpark. The pen is better with Ryan Madson in as the closer and strong lefty Sean Marshall over from Chicago. Looks like a contender.

11. Tigers. Owner Mike Ilitch gets props for the $214-million, nine-year band-aid he bought in Fielder after Victor Martinez's brutal knee injury.

12. Phillies. They imported Jonathan Papelbon, who has a longer track record, to replace Ryan Madson. Jim Thome fills the resident nice guy role left vacated by Brad Lidge's departure (and Juan Pierre won't hurt in that dept. either, assuming he makes the team). They have more versatility with Ty Wigginton adding to their bench strength.

13. Pirates. The new killer B's are here -- Rod Barajas, Erik Bedard, Clint Barmes and A.J. Burnett. The Bucs certainly should be better.

14. Mariners. Hong-Chih Kuo, Shawn Camp and Hisashi Iwakuma have a chance to help. But their offseason will turn on whether Montero becomes a bigger star than Pineda. The guess here is, he does.

15. Padres. They maximized the Latos trade. Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal could become stars, and Brad Boxberger may be the closer of the future. Huston Street ably replaces Bell. And Carlos Quentin may thrive back in his hometown.

16. Cubs. David DeJesus is a solid outfielder, and Paul Maholm will help. But their winter will turn on whether slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the player they think he is. The real loss for them was the new rule limiting bonus pools for drafted players.

17. Royals. Jonathan Sanchez is just the type of high-ceiling pitcher who fits, Bruce Chen was needed back and Jonathan Broxton is worth a flyer.

18. Dodgers. They managed to cut to below $90 million as cash-strapped Frank McCourt sells the team, but they pieced it together pretty well. Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang are solid starters but most of the other imports are extras. They also made an exciting secret grab at Fielder but were outbid by the Tigers. Their best move, though, was signing Matt Kemp for eight years at $160 million,

19. Indians. Given the restrictions of the budget, not terrible. Casey Kotchman looks to be on the upswing, and Derek Lowe is a veteran presence needed especially now that Fausto Carmona is better known as Limbo Carmona.

20. Giants. Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan are late bloomers, and they might do as well as the combo of Caros Beltran, Andres Torres and Cody Ross. The comeback of Buster Posey is probably the biggest key. Also like the smaller pickups of Clay Hensley and Ryan Theriot.

21. Cardinals. It's hard to lose Pujols (not to mention Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan) and not feel it. But somehow, the Cardinals seem to find a way. Beltran replaces some of Pujols' lost offense, if not his presence. Adam Wainwright's return is the biggest addition, though.

22. Orioles. Nobody did more different things, but it's tough to evaluate or guess what Wei-Yin Chen or Tsuyoshi Wada will become. Wilson Betemit was an odd signing in that no one saw a two-year deal coming.

23. White Sox. Love the Robin Ventura move (though I suspect they should have made him take a more-experienced staff). The team will be a lot younger, too, with all the kids acquired for Santos and Quentin. Buehrle is tough to replace, though.

24. Braves. Their big deal was for utlityman Jack Wilson, which says a lot. Never found the right deal for Jair Jurrjens or Martin Prado.

25. Twins. Josh Willingham has a lot of pressure on him to make up for the loss of Cuddyer and Kubel. Joe Nathan preferred to go to a contender. Not sure how much Jason Marquis has left.

26. Red Sox. I like the way they recovered from the loss of Papelbon by adding Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey. Cody Ross and Nick Punto are nice complementary pieces. But I think they'll miss Jason Varitek more than think. And they still don't have a No. 4 or 5 starter or starting shortstop after trading Marco Scutaro in exchange for "flexibility.'' Bobby Valentine was a great call for manager, and he does his best work when there are issues, so maybe he pulls it all together.

27. A's. They did a nice job collecting prospects (Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole could be stars) but will be hard-pressed to avoid 90 defeats this year after trading Cahill, Gonzalez and Bailey. Big Talent Yoenis Cespedes and Mannyball spice things up. Interesting offseason.

28. Brewers. Tough to make up for the loss of Fielder. Aramis Ramirez is a nice middle-of-the-order bat, Alex Gonzalez is an upgrade at shortstop and Nori Aoki may work. Also lost some bullpen depth with Takashi Saito and Hawkins gone.

29. Astros. They took a flyer on the oft-injured Fernando Martinez but after failing to unload Wandy Rodriguez, Carlos Lee or Brett Myers, they basically return the same team. Which is not necessarily good news when you lost 106 games.

30. Mets. They lost the heart of the team (though an of-injured one), and Andres Torres wouldn't be my first choice to replace the dynamic Reyes. Actually, Pagan would have been better. But that's nitpicky. Let's face it, no one that cuts an unprecedented $50 million can do well.
Posted on: January 30, 2012 2:50 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2012 4:45 pm

Retiring Burrell stacks up well vs. other No. 1s

Pat Burrell had a better career than you think. In fact, "Pat the Bat" had a better career than the vast majority of the other No. 1 overall draft picks, maybe 75 percent of the overall No. 1s, or maybe even more than that.

Of the first 34 overall No. 1s, from Rick Monday in 1965 by the A's to Burrell in 1998 by the Phillies, only five clearly had a better career than Burrell. That would be Ken Griffey Jr. (1987, Mariners), Alex Rodriguez (1993, Mariners), Chipper Jones (1990, Braves), Harold Baines (1977, White Sox) and Darryl Strawberry (1980, Mets). That's three out of 34 with Hall of Fame resumes, one with an extremely long and productive career and a fifth who probably should have been going to Cooperstown. Burrell falls into the next group of nine who had very nice careers but far short of great. But he's probably at or near the top of that group, so while he never became a superstar or even made an All-Star team, he was a solid first selection, certainly a lot more solid than most top picks.

The other eight No. 1 overalls I'd put into that good-but-not-great category would be Jeff Burroughs (1969, Senators), Bob Horner (1978, Braves), B.J. Surhoff (1985, Brewers), Andy Benes (1988, Padres), Phil Nevin (1992, Astros), Tim Belcher (1983, Twins), Shawon Dunston (1982, Cubs) and Mike Moore (1981, Mariners). I'd rank Burrell seventh overall, just behind Monday at No. 6 but ahead of the others in this group -- though, if someone wants to reorder the players within that group I wouldn't necessarily quibble. Burrell could be eighth, ninth or 10th, but he's clearly in the top third, at the very worst.

Shawon Dunston has a pretty good case to be at or near the top of this second group, too, with 150 home runs and an all-time shortstop arm in a 20-year career, but I'd put him just below Burrell. Benes has really solid stats, with a 155-139 record and 3.97 ERA, but he didn't have as much impact as Burrell. Burroughs and Horner has similar careers to each other, with some high highs (an MVP in Burroughs' case) but either not quite as much length or consistency. Surhoff was versatile and a high average hitter (.282) but he's more famous for having been picked ahead of Barry Bonds, Barry Larkin and Will Clark in that stellar '85 draft.

Burrell, who CBSSports.com has confirmed will retire (Tim Dierkes of @mlbtraderumors first reported the news), hit 292 home runs, twice finished in the top 14 in MVP voting and was a key contributor on two World Series winning teams, the 2008 Phillies and 2010 Giants (although the '10 World Series wasn't his finest hour). Burrell was a prodigious and consistent power hitter for the Phillies, and he had a very respectable .834 OPS for his career.

It's amazing how many of the overall No. 1 picks, especially the early ones, simply did not deliver. Danny Goodwin, a marginal major leaguer, was twice a No. 1 pick overall pick. David Clyde was the biggest-hyped high school pitcher maybe ever. Mike Ivie never became the big slugger some figured he might be. Tim Foli was a notable scrapper, but at some point , big-league scouts figured it wasn't worth taking a scrapper No. 1 overall.

Only two of the 34 No. 1s overall never played in the big leagues, Steve Chilcott (1966, Mets) and Brien Taylor (1991, Yankees). Chilcott was an incredible miscalculation, and was a mistake that is illuminated by the man picked right behind him, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson. Taylor never regained his 99-mph fastball or any of his early promise after injuring his left shoulder defending his brother in a bar fight after he signed a record $1.55-million contract after a negotiation depicted by "60 Minutes'' and a couple impressive minor-league seasons. Shawn Abner, Matt Anderson and Al Chambers were busts in their own right.

Counting the ignominious New York picks Chilcott and Taylor, 19 No. 1 overall picks from '65 to '98 clearly had inferior careers to Burrell's (at least in my mind). And while that may say something about the crapshoot aspect of the amateur draft, some bad early picks before scouting improved or something else entirely, Burrell can't be considered any sort of disappointment, no matter how you measure it.
Category: MLB
Posted on: January 24, 2012 8:38 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2012 2:25 pm

Now comes the hard part for Tim and the Giants

Giants superstar Tim Lincecum's just-agreed-upon $40.5-million, two-year deal with the Giants means he and the team avoid arbitration right into free agency, which is a great thing. No team wants to go to arbitration with its biggest star. And Lincecum wasn't especially fond of the idea, either. He went right into the hearing room in Tampa two years ago, but when it became clear he wanted no part of the sometimes bitter system, he and his agent Rick Thurman cut a fair and quick two-year deal.

Once again, they've worked out a two-year arragement, right up to the day Lincecum can become a free agent. The problem is: what happens then?

Before polishing off the latest two-year deal, the Giants offered Lincecum at least $100-million on five years while Lincecum has countered with a deal of eight years, or at least seven years plus an eighth year option. It's early, but the sides are about $75 million apart, maybe more than that. They have two years to bridge that gap. But let's not kid ourselves. That's a whopper of a gap.

The team will likely have an easier time with Matt Cain, who's shown a willingness to take a hometown discount in the past. Thanks to Cain taking a $27.25-million, three-year deal, he will have made almost exactly half of Lincecum over their final three arbitration years. Some folks are risk averse. Cain is one of those folks, apparently. The word going around is that he will take a deal for less than $20 million a year. He could beat that as a free agent assuming he posts his usual year, but word is out, he will probably play it safe.

Meantime, Lincecum is the gambler. He's the swashbuckler. This should come as no surprise to those who have watched Lincecum compete. He seems to want to bet on himself, and if he puts together two more typical years, he may cash in big. Some could even see him as the game's first $200-million pitcher.
Category: MLB
Posted on: January 22, 2012 6:31 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 10:46 am

SF offers Tim $100M-plus but more able on Cain

The Giants are talking to franchise pitchers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain about multiyear deals, but while there are early indications they'll have a decent or better chance to lock up Cain into his free-agent years, the team seems to be focusing on deals of two years or one with Lincecum after he rebuffed an offer of at least $100 million for five years.

Giants people are saying only that talks are "ongoing'' with Cain, but there is said to be a fair amount of optimism they can keep Cain on a longterm deal for under $20 million a year. Cain already took one long team-friendly deal, but Lincecum, who has so far gone year to year, seems more likely to wind up with a two-year deal now rather than sign a contract into his free-agent years.

Cain along with Cole Hamels has been seen as one of the two pitching gems of the 2012-13 free agent class, and while teams are salivating at the thought of having a shot at Cain, people familiar with the talks see him staying in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Giants appear to be tens of millions apart on a long deal with Lincecum after he rebuffed their offer for five years and nine figures and he countered much higher than that. It is thought Lincecum seeks a deal for seven or eight years but would be content to do a one- or two-year contract if no megadeal can be accomplished now. The Giants offered Lincecum $40 million on a two-year deal, and the sides logically could wind up in the low 40s after Lincecum requested an arbitration record $21.5 million for a non free agent and the Giants countered at $17 million for 2012.

Baseball people believe Cain might be able to match Cliff Lee's $120-million as a free agent if he tested the market after the year, but word is that he badly wants to stay in San Francisco. Additionally, industry experts suggest that if Lincecum could put together two more years like his first four that two years from now as a free agent he could possibly become the game's first $200-million pitcher.

Category: MLB
Posted on: December 28, 2011 2:43 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 8:58 pm

Gap still exists in Giants/Lincecum talks

After some more negotiating this winter, indications are that there's still a sizable gap in long-term contract talks between the San Francisco Giants and their ace pitcher Tim Lincecum.

Neither side would speak directly about the specifics of the negotiations that have been kept remarkably quiet this winter, but it is thought the sides are still at least a couple years and tens of millions of dollars apart. The Giants had made locking up Lincecum and his rotation mate Matt Cain their top priorities this winter, priorities 1 and 1A if you will.

The Giants are believed to have raised an offer they made this summer that was said to have been for four years and presumably about $80 million sometime in the past few weeks, but Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young winner and the 2010 World Series hero, is thought to be seeking an eight-year deal. Neither side has suggested exactly where the Giants stand now, but people familiar with the talks suggest the sides are also weighing one- and two-year options now, a clear signal that they aren't yet close to agreeing on a contract of substantial length.

Both sides have suggested all along that they are amenable to working out a deal of one or two years if they can't agree now on a long-term arrangement. However, the Giants' ultimate goal has been to do a deal that would cover some of Lincecum's free agent years. Lincecum is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season. A case could be made that there is even more urgency to the talks involving Cain; while he is clearly the No. 2 man in the rotation, he is eligible for free agency after the 2012 season.

While a longterm deal for Lincecum would almost surely run the Giants well more than $100 million, the arbitration process isn't going to be cheap, either. He made $14 million in 2011 (including a $1 million bonus) and could approach a record $18-20 million via an arbitration settlement, with the possibility of $25 million or more in '13 looming. A case could be made that Lincecum has been baseball's best pitcher over the past four years. He certainly has been its most decorated, with three strikeout titles to go with all the other hardware.
Lincecum, a Seattle native, has thrived since te Giants made him one of the best No. 10 overall picks ever a few years back. San Francisco has embraced his quirky delivery and nature. Likewise, all indications are that he loves the city and wants to stay a long while. The rival Dodgers gave star outfielder Matt Kemp a $160-million, eight-year extension this winter.

Lincecum, 27, is 69-41 with a 2.98 ERA, but that doesn't tell the story of the brilliance he has displayed. He was only 13-14 in 2011 when a incredible lack of offensive support undermined his efforts.

Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com