I'll admit: I just returned from 96 hours in New Orleans, so my head is rather sensitive to bright lights and loud noises. But what I saw when I opened up ESPN the Magazine this morning made my brain feel like Vince Wilfork's yoga mat. Apparently, former Nationals and Reds general manager Jim Bowden has added "ESPN Insider" to the numerous media posts he holds, and in a recent edition of the network's over-sized publication he handicapped next year's free agent crop, including two young starters who are sure to draw heavy interest if they hit the market. Those starters would be San Francisco's Matt Cain and your Cole Hamels.
In addition to breaking down the likelihood of both players returning to their teams, Bowden included a bid that he would make for each pitcher.
To Bowden's credit, you can at least make a logical argument for the five-year, $90 million bid for Hamels. In reality, there is no way in hell Hamels would earn less than $20 million a year if he hit the free agent market right now. But the case for not shelling out C.C. Sabathia money pretty much makes itself when you look at the history of such long-term deals. So the offer seems somewhat reasonable. . .until you get to the part where Bowden says he would offer one more year and $42 million more to Cain.
That's right. Bowden's bid for Cain was six years, $132 million.
Unfortunately, neither Bowden nor the magazine saw fit to explain why he would hand Cain $44 million more than Hamels. Maybe because such an argument did not fit in the flashy design of the page. Or maybe because such an argument cannot be made.
Look, you can make a case for offering Hamels five years and $90 million. I wouldn't make that case. But somebody could. And you can make a case for offering Cain six years and $134 million. Again, I wouldn't. But somebody could.
What nobody can do is offer a logical explanation for why he would offer Hamels five years and $90 million and Cain six years and $134 million.
Hamels is one year older than Cain. Here is how their performances compare over the last one, two, three, four and five seasons:
Last Two Years:
Last Three Years:
Last Four Years:
Last Five Years:
Again, Bowden offered no explanation for the disparity in his bids. The only rationale I can think of is health. Cain has averaged 33 starts over the last five years. Hamels has had some minor elbow issues. Even then, is $18 million a season much different than $22 million a season in terms of impact to your payroll in case of injury?
Take health out of the equation and there is no way you can argue that Cain's performance has been worth $4 million more per season.