Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle speculated today, via Twitter, that an extension for Matt Cain might be in the works. Considering that the Giants have yet to officially announce extensions for Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Wilson, Schulman wonders (Twitter link) if a deal for Cain could come "sooner rather than later."
While we wait to see if there's any merit to this speculation, let's examine a pair of comparable contract extensions: Felix Hernandez's $78MM deal with Seattle and Justin Verlander's $80MM pact with the Tigers. Both pitchers, like Cain, were poised to hit free agency after the 2011 season, before their teams locked them up.
Cain's career resume to date is impressive, matching up reasonably well with the Mariners' and Tigers' aces. He has been durable, making at least 31 starts in each of the last four seasons, and his career 1.25 WHIP bests both Felix's (1.27) and Verlander's (1.28). Still, Cain has yet to post a truly elite season like the 2009 campaigns that earned Hernandez and Verlander Cy Young and MVP votes.
The Tigers will pay Verlander $20MM annually in what would have been his first three free agent years, while the Mariners will pay Hernandez $19.3MM per year over the same period. If the Giants were to sign Cain long-term, you'd have to think it could cost them up to $15MM annually for those free agency seasons.
The 25-year-old Cain has a $6.25MM club option for 2011 (his final arbitration season) that should vest if he stays healthy. If the Giants were to extend the right-hander today, they would likely re-do that year, perhaps guaranteeing him $7MM or so. All told, San Francisco could be looking at a price tag in excess of $50MM to retain their #2 starter from 2011 through 2014.