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3.03.2006

Randy's Winnfall 

With the question whether Barry Bonds should use one of Kramer's "Bros" (or if you prefer, "Manssieres") dominating the old Dateline: Scottsdale this week, I haven't had time to think deeply and responsibly about Randy Winn's three-year contract extension.

Don't expect me to start now.

For those of you who missed it, here are the details:

- $3 million signing bonus
- $4 million in 2007
- $8 million in 2008
- $8.25 million in 2009

I don't know if the bonus is paid 1) all at once immediately; 2) all at once when the extension officially starts; 3) in equal parts over the life of the contract; or 4) in equal parts cash and garlic fries. Nota bene, Randy: garlic fries are nasty as soon as they drop below 85 degrees. And you can't put them in the microwave.

Bonuses for the Alfonzo and Durham contracts were spread out, so until I learn otherwise I'll go with option number 3.

Grant of Tha' MCC has done a fine job mulling over the pros and cons of the contract, and I don't really disagree with his conclusions, which I please to summarize in this nut-guard, as we say in home country: The Winn extension isn't too bad unless his big paychecks in '08 and '09 prevent the Giants from signing a game-changing superduperstar.

So that leads us to the question: What are the Giants payroll projections in those years? How green will their valley be, and will they pay top dollar for players to occupy it?

Let's start with 2007.

No longer under contract: Bonds, M. Alou, Kline, Finley, Feliz, Durham, Schmidt. With deferred payments (to Bonds, M. Alou) and buyouts (Finley), the Giants are on the hook for approximately $40 million.

2008:

No longer under contract: Benitez, Vizquel, Matheny, Sweeney, Worrell. With deferred payments (Bonds, Benitez, Vizquel) and buyouts (Matheny), the Giants are on the hook for approximately $28 million.

2009:

One article about Winn's extension said he's currently the only Giant under contract for that year. True, but there will still be IOUs for deferred payments (Bonds, Morris, Benitez, Vizquel) and buyouts (Morris) that come to approximately $10 million. Add that to Winn's salary, and the Giants will owe close to $20 million.

We can assume that the Giants will add to these totals by signing young players to long-term deals. Noah Lowry and Matt Cain come to mind immediately.

Billy Beane is great at locking up younger pitchers to below-market contracts in their arbitration-eligible years: Hudson, Zito, Mulder and Harden all signed guaranteed contracts that turned out to be huge bargains for the A's. The Giants tried the same tack with Livan Hernandez and Russ Ortiz. Let's pretend Cain and Lowry agree to take guaranteed money through '08 or '09. What might that look like?

The best comparable could be Rich Harden: debuted very young but showed immediately he could handle major-league hitters. In his first five starts in 2003, he threw 32 innings, struck out 30 and walked 10. After his first full year of major league service, Harden signed a 4-year, $9 million contract with a $7 million option for 2009. Very similar to Zito and Hudson's first multiyear contracts, in fact. (Harden's breakdown, according to Cot's Contracts, is a $1 M signing bonus, $0.5 M in '05, $1 M in '06, $2 M in '07, and $4.5 M in '08.)

It's conceivable, nay, likely, that by '08-'09 Lowry and Cain will be earning $4 to $5 million each. Niekro will be arb-eligible by then, too, but unless he busts out this year, his cash flow will be more Mark than Mike Sweeneyesque. (Or Julia Sweeneyesque, for that matter.)

I can't imagine any of the other youngsters with MLB experience -- Linden, Ellison, Chavez, Knoedler, Hennessey, Accardo, Munter, Taschner, etc. -- pulling down multi-millions by then, unless Munter-Taschner release an extended single that becomes the favorite of the Euro-goth underground and they quit baseball to open a leather bar or tour with Einstürzende Neubauten. Or both!

Stranger things have happened.

Let's say the most the Giants spend in '08 on their homegrown players is $15 to $20 million, the bulk of which goes to Cain and Lowry. That puts payroll in the $40 to 50 million range.

We can only hope the payroll ceiling remains at least at current levels, somewhere around $90 million. A lot depends on the post-Bonds attendance and marketing (i.e., Lance Niekro Bobblehead Doll Night) and a new collective bargaining agreement once the current one expires at the end of this season. A work stoppage coinciding with the End Of Barry would kill the Giants at the gate.

We can also only hope that these wide-open, near-future payroll expanses will be filled with fair, sensible contracts for budding young stars from both within the organization and without. Perhaps by 2008, Jeremy Accardo and Merkin Valdez will be a dirt-cheap and devastating end-of-game bullpen combo, a la F-Rod/Nen circa 2000. Perhaps Kevin Frandsen will be the next Robby Thompson at second base, and Brad Hennessey will be the unheralded but quietly pranksterish third cog in the Cain-Lowry-Hennessey "Behemoth by the Bay" rotation, with Jonathan Sanchez creating a huge buzz in Fresno.

Doug Mirabelli, acquired after 2007 from the Padres for Stan Conte's son, will have two career years with the bat and learn from Benito Santiago how to throw out runners from his knees -- which after Mirabelli's decade of benchwarming, will be in surprisingly good shape. And Vlad Guerrero, coming off back surgery, will force a trade from Anaheim to San Francisco, with the Angels picking up most of his remaining contract. He will be named comeback player of the year and mentor Eddie Martinez-Esteve, who finally realizes how lucky he is to be in the big leagues and decides to learn how to hit the cutoff man.

2008 can't come soon enough.

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