The 2012 baseball season will be an economic crossroads for the San Francisco Giants.
On the contract and player payroll front, two out of control fiscal freight trains are heading for each other at top speed and will soon collide in an explosion of greenbacks, champagne, and Texas Instruments calculators: current and expensive bad contracts, and inescapably costly new contracts.
On the Oakland A's relocation front, the Giants brain trust will have to make a final decision on whether to, a) lock horns with about 90% of all Major League Baseball owners and fight to keep their territorial rights in San Jose and the Silicon Valley; or, b) appease their Mercedes driving/50 year old scotch drinking/leather chair sitting brethren and settle for what must ultimately be a modest buyout in the name of family peace.
But back to my brilliant freight trains anaolgy. Just when you thought the infosphere couldn't hold one more bad news story about San Francisco Giant player contracts, up jumps 2012. In the upcoming season potentially $41 million dollars will be diverted from the Giants real estate development project across McCovey Cove and into the pockets of Barry Zito ($19m), Aaron Rowand ($12m), and Aubrey Huff ($10m). That train began to go out of control years ago.
Certainly Zito will earn his paychecks if he can keep his 5th starter role throughout 2012, and Huff is scheduled to play either left field or bump Brandon Belt off of 1st base. That is if Huff can bounce back from his horrific 2011 season-- something that has not historically come easy for 35-year-old baseball players.
And Aaron Rowand? The good news is that he was invited to the Miami Marlins spring camp and if he makes the team the Giants are only on the hook for $11.52m of his $12m salary this season. The frosting on that cake will melt when Rowand drives in his first run against the Giants in the regular season.
Which brings us to a stunning and improbable 2013 Opening Day:
three Giant starters will be making close to $60 million...
The other speeding freight train on the payroll front is all about new contracts. That dreaded time when starters Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain begin to make Top Tier Money is at hand. Lincecum and his agent are at the arbitration table even as we sit and eat our Oreos and milk and there is little doubt he will walk away with the two things he wants most: a $20+ million a year salary, and a two year contract that will not interfere with cashing in hugetime as a free agent in several years.
At the same time, Matt Cain will close a three year $27.25m contract with San Francisco by pulling down $15m in 2012. Apparently the team is desperately hoping they can wrap Cain up for anywhere from 3-5 years starting in 2013 at less than $20m a year. Cain will go for the multi-year deal, but it's hard to believe it will be significantly below an average of $20m a year. [I won't even mention that closer Brian Wilson is scheduled to be arbitration-eligible in 2013. Oops!]
Which brings us to a stunning and improbable 2013 Opening Day: the Giants will have three pitchers in the starting rotation making close to $60 million (Zito, Lincecum, Cain). Even the Philadelphia Phillies, who have one of the highest salaried starting rotations in MLB history, will have to stretch to top the Giants:
|Philadelphia||Roy Halladay||Cliff Lee||Cole Hamels||Roy Oswalt||Totals|
Despite Rowand and Huff coming off the books next year, payroll will continue to be consumed in mass quantities by starting and bullpen pitching. And that suggests the San Francisco Giants' offense will continue to be a patched together combination of home-grown talent (cross your fingers) and bargain basement free agents and trade candidates.
Next: the Giants fierce territorial claims in San Jose and the neighboring Silicon Valley will make the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 look like a stroll down Sesame Street.