Tim Lincecum vs. Matt Cain


If you could only pick one, who would you rather keep on the team: Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain?

That’s not an entirely fair question, since Lincecum has already expressed his desire to remain a Giant for a good portion, if not all, of his career, while Cain appears to be keeping his options open. Still, given the approaching years of free agency for both players, it’s a question Sabean and Bochy may face sooner rather than later.

In Andrew Baggarly’s latest blog post, he shares some insights from Cain during the media presser on Friday. First of all, Cain is well aware of what’s beyond San Francisco. After 10 seasons with the Giants, there’s the obvious temptation of teams with flashier offenses and abundant run support.

Secondly, and perhaps surprisingly, Baggarly reported that Cain seems satisfied with the level of offense the front office has procured for 2012; namely, the additions of Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. With some rearranging of the lineup, the potential reemergence of Brandon Belt (those words are painful to write, even as I’m imagining him stuck in Fresno for another season), and the hopeful comeback of Freddy and Buster, the Giants’ pitching staff may see a slight boost in run support this year. I’m not going to project any major spike in offense, but the possibility is there.

Finally, and most striking to me, was the following quote:

"Baggs: “Could Cain’s future be tied in a sense to Tim Lincecum, and the fact he only signed a two-year contract instead of a longer term deal that would buy out his free-agent years?”Cain: “It does. Because there’s nothing better than having a great rotation. There’s such a sense of confidence and companionship you have with each other. Maybe not all the pressure is on you to go out and win.”"

Of course, it’s not as simple as keeping Lincecum around just to entice Cain to sign a long-term contract. In 2011, Cain received only 3.4 runs per game over 33 starts, almost a full run less (per game) than he received in 2010. While I can’t imagine he’s ready to walk after the 2012 season, it wouldn’t hurt to have a strong showing from Pagan, Cabrera, and, well, everyone this year.

From the Giants’ side, all reports indicate that they are confident in their ability to satisfy hefty long-term contracts for both Cain and Lincecum. By 2014, a good deal of money should be freed up from Rowand, Huff, and Zito’s contracts. And there’s always the rainy day fund to pull from, too. The only catch here is that offensive improvements may be put on hold if the Giants pour a lot of their payroll into these two contracts… and without a solid offense, there may not be a whole lot of incentive to prevent Cain from fielding other offers.

Catch-22? Perhaps. For now, however, we have a whole new season of both Cain and Lincecum to look forward to.