The best part about repeating yourself is the whole "not having to type anything new" part. But this is freaky enough to repeat:
Zack Greinke: 823 innings, 3.37 ERA, 126 ERA+
Cole Hamels: 845 innings, 3.29 ERA, 126 ERA+
Matt Cain: 880 innings, 3.17 ERA, 128 ERA+
It's hard to find three pitchers quite that similar. These three were to be free agents after the season. They were holding hands and staring into the abyss, like Thelma & Louise & … that one no one talks about anymore. Janelle, or something. The first one to sign the deal was going to bring the other two along with him, for better or for worse.
There were whispers at first that Cain would sign a below-market deal. A still-lucrative deal, but one that would still come in at a discount. That did not happen. Cain was paid and paid well. His extension with the Giants is for five years, $112.5 million, and it starts after the 2012 season. That's close to what he might have expected after the season from another team. If there was a hometown discount, it was probably measured with money that you could fit in a standard wallet.
Now that one domino has fallen, Hamels and Greinke have a better idea of what their value should be on the open market. And the players know this. So do their teammates. From a CSN Philly producer:
Victorino teasing Hamels after a failed BP swing, "Matt Cain would have hit that." #contracthumor— Casey Feeney (@caseyfeeney66) April 2, 2012
As long as we're all clowning around, here's another one that's funny:
Cain's contract is huge blow to the #Phillies, who were trying to stick to four years at about $20 a year for Cole Hamels. No chance now.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) April 2, 2012
Well, that wasn't funny to Phillies fans, but it's funny that the Phillies might have been thinking that Hamels was going to sign for 4/$80 million. That's Mark Buehrle money. There wasn't a good chance of that before, and it's certainly not happening now. The Jered Weaver/Felix Hernandez extensions are old news, and they were given to players with arbitration seasons remaining. The new standard is the Cain contract.
The Phillies are extraordinarily leveraged for the future. They already have $63 million committed to three players for the 2015 season. That might leave the Phillies something like $130 million to spend on 22 players, which is plenty. But if Hamels signs for Cain money, that takes up more of the budget. And they'd like to sign Shane Victorino. Possibly Hunter Pence. And Jimmy Rollins has a vesting option. There's a decent chance that the Phillies could be completely hamstrung by contracts in a couple of years. They can't just pay Hamels whatever he wants; it has to be something that makes sense. For once.
The Brewers are probably out on Greinke now. It's tough to say with any certainty, but it's a good guess. They paid for Ryan Braun. That was their big-ticket item. Greinke isn't the homegrown, beloved figure that Cain and Hamels are to the Giants and Phillies. There's less of a PR factor. I'd wager there's a .01-percent chance that the Brewers sign Greinke to a contract similar to Cain's. If Greinke re-signs, it's because he was willing to compromise. He's a unique cat, so maybe he will. At least now he knows what his market value is close to.
And waiting patiently around the corner are the New Dodgers, who are tipping bellboys with $100 bills because they can, proclaiming loudly that they'll spend money next offseason. Cain's contract gives the other two an idea of their value, but it also might have increased it. The lower the supply, the greater the demand.
The three pitchers were waiting for each other. It's time for a chain reaction, now. Also, the chain is a gold one with rubies and diamonds and such. Because these guys are loaded now. Cain knows exactly how loaded. The other two can now make a pretty good guess.