What Does Matt Cain’s Contract Mean For Greinke?


Around baseball today, it was anything but a typical Monday, with two of the game’s better players signing long-term deals with their clubs. Reds first baseman Joey Votto signed a 10 year deal worth $225 million running through 2023(!!!). Also, Giants right-hander Matt Cain inked a 5 year, $112.5 million deal with a vesting option for 2018.

The Votto deal certainly affects the Brewers by keeping an MVP candidate with one of their division foes for a long, long time, but Cain’s contract will likely have an even more direct impact, through the club’s on-again, off-again negotiations with Zack Greinke about a long-term deal of his own. As GM Doug Melvin said today, “Any signing impacts other players who haven’t signed.” I certainly don’t have inside knowledge of the talks between Greinke and the Brewers, but it’s hard to imagine the two sides talking from now on without Greinke (or whoever ends up representing him) mentioning Cain as a comparable.

However, Greinke and Cain are far from identical pitchers. Here’s a brief comparison, with stats from 2009 onward:

  Age IP RA H/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP
Cain 26 662.2 3.25 7.36 7.16 2.68 .72 1.12
Greinke 27 621 3.77 8.33 9.04 2.19 .70 1.17

While Greinke does have better defense-independent stats, Cain has thrown more innings and allowed significantly fewer runs, and is almost certainly the pitcher that would be worth more on the open market. Even without accounting for the various other factors that could possibly depress the market for Greinke, he’s still not going to get $22.5 million a year.

Yes, there are definitely similarities between Greinke and Cain, and the deal of the latter will affect the former, but I’m not sure by how much. I’m not sure if Cain is a better comp than, say, Jered Weaver, who signed for 5 years and $85 million last year. Only time will tell here, but I think the $90-100 million figure that has been thrown around all along makes as much sense as ever.