Trade Possibilities: Raising Cain

Another fine pitcher whose name has been linked to the Jays in the rumor mill – Matt Cain.

 Again, a lot to like – 2011 ERA of 2.88 with a WHIP of 1.038.  Solid K/9 of 7+, and only 27 years old. 200+ innings in each of his last 5 years.

 Along the lines of my Gio Gonzaelz post, and to demonstrate that I can be positive as well as negative, here are seven things I like about Cain

 Park factor

 SF’s AT&T Park is the most pitcher friendly park in the majors.  So it would be easy to dismiss Matt’s performance as park-biased.  But his career “away” ERA is 3.62, as compared to a home ERA of 3.12 (in 2011, the figures were even closer at 2.97 / 2.80).  Hardly a “one-park wonder”.

 Second half stud

 I noted that Gio Gonzelez had markedly worse career second-half stats.  Matt is just the opposite – career ERA of 3.52 pre-all star, and 3.17 after.  Just what a team targeting playoffs needs.

 Good when it counts

 Matt has only payed in 3 playoff games in his career, so it is a small sample.  Still … he averaged over 7 innings per playoff start.  Home runs allowed in 21+ innings?  Zero.  Earned run average for those 21 innings?  0.00.

 Learning to pitch

 In Matt’s first full season in 2006, his HR/9 was 0.8 and his BB/9 was 4.1.  Neither figure all that great.  In 2011?  0.4 and 2.6.  And remember – at 27 years old, he has arguably not yet peaked.

 Pitching in difficult stadiums

 Perhaps the two toughest stadiums to pitch in are Colorado and Arizona.  Both launching pads.  Matt’s career ERA in COL is 4.11 and in ARI is 4.22.  For those stadiums, not too shabby at all.

 Clubhouse chemistry

 Matt has pitched “in the shadows” behind Tim Linceum.  Does he b*tch/whine/ego-trip?  Not even close.  In fact, the players and coaches voted him the Willie Mac Award in 2009 for team spirit and leadership.  Not exactly a “clubhouse cancer” candidate!


 Matt’s current contract with San Francisco paid him $7.3 million in 2011, with $15 million due in 2012.  This would make him (subject to this year’s FA signings) roughly the 12th highest paid pitcher in baseball.  Not cheap – especially for a pitcher whose 2011 WAR of 3.9 was 26th in the majors.  And he is only under team control for one more year – he becomes a free agent in 2013.  

 But this could work to the Jays’ advantage.  A player’s trade value is (in theory, if you believe authors like J. C. Bradbury) determined by the difference between the value he creates and his paycheque.  So one year of Cain at $15m might not demand an exorbitant value in trade.  

 Of course, there is always the Yankee factor, which inflates all player salaries.  And this is a weak year for free-agent pitching, which will increase the value of all pitchers traded.  But if anyone can extract full value, my vote is with A-squared! <grin>

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