Matt Cain is a good pitcher. In fact, he's a very good pitcher. If he wasn't teammates with the defending two-time NL Cy Young award winner, Cain would be the ace of the Giants staff, and already be known as one of the top pitchers in the game.
Fortunately for Cain, he doesn't mind playing second fiddle to Lincecum. Now, he just needs his offense to give him proper run support, and he'll be known as the current Giants ace.
In his four-plus years in San Francisco, the 25-year-old Cain has amassed a record of 44-51 in 137 starts. That isn't an overly impressive record, but when you look at the rest of his numbers, you realize just how good he has been.
He has been in the Giants rotation since 2006, and he's never made fewer than 31 starts in a season. He's also never pitched fewer than 190 2/3 innings, including three straight seasons of at least 200 innings pitched.
Cain has a career ERA of 3.53, including last year's 2.89. He's never had an ERA over 4.15.
He has also established himself as a good strikeout pitcher. He's averaged 175 punch-outs over the last four years, while only walking an average of 82 batters a year. Mix in a career WHIP of 1.253, and one can see why Cain is a much better pitcher than his record indicates.
The Giants spent much of the winter trying to improve their offense. Adding Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff will help, but the team still lacks that big bat in the middle of their lineup that's so vital in a good offense.
The lack of a big bat often has Matt Cain's name mentioned in trade rumors. The Giants have a surplus of starting pitchers, and many believe Cain could bring back the middle-of-the-order muscle the offense is lacking.
The team and player most often brought up as a possible trade partner for the Giants is the Milwaukee Brewers and Prince Fielder.
Although the Brewers signed several pitchers this past winter to bolster a horrible pitching staff, none are equal to the level of Cain. He would team with Yovani Gallardo to give the Brewers a very good one-two punch that would solve much of their pitching woes.
Fielder would obviously be the bat the Giants and their fans have been looking for since the departure of Barry Bonds after the 2007 season.
Fielder is under team control until after the 2011 season. Cain is entering the last year of his four-year, $9 million contract, although there is a team option for next year worth $6.25 million. Obviously, any team that might trade for him this year would pick that option up.
Of course the Giants could hold on to Cain and let him play out his contract, and try to sign a big bat in free agency over the next couple of years.
It's obvious that Matt Cain is a valuable commodity to the Giants, whether he's on the mound, or used as a possible trading chip.
His on-the-field success will only add to his value off-the-field. 2010 should be a great year for Cain and the Giants organization. Expect him to become an elite-level pitcher in the National League, and then be traded in the offseason to help the team even more.
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