Can the Giants afford to pay both Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum?

Barry Zito, right, walks in with Tim Lincecum to Giants spring training. Zito could factor into the Giants signing Lincecum and Matt Cain to long-term deals. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum? That seems to be the million dollar question for the Giants this spring. Can they afford both?

Many believe the answer is no. Eric Byrnes and John Hart said as much last month when Tim Lincecum signed his two-year, $40.5 million deal.

General manager Brian Sabean said yes.

“We’ll have enough wherewithal in the budget to sign both players,” Sabean said in early February.

But how can this be, when Cain and Lincecum could end up costing the Giants $50 million a season, or more?

Well, let’s call it the Zito/Rowand Factor.

For the past four seasons and into 2012, the Giants have spent at least $30 million a season for Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand and received little in return. In 2013, that figure will drop to $20 million (just Zito). In 2014, it will just be Zito’s $7 million buyout.

If the Giants can afford to spend more than $64 million on Zito, Lincecum, Cain and Rowand in 2012, they can afford to give Cain as much as $22 million in 2013 with Rowand’s $12 million coming off the board. In 2014, Zito’s contract comes off the board.

So, the Giants should easily be able to sign Lincecum and Cain for less than $64 million a season.

Not only that, but other contracts come off the board after 2012. Aubrey Huff ($10 million), Freddy Sanchez ($6 million), Jeremy Affledt ($5 million), Angel Pagan ($6 million) and Melky Cabrera ($4.85 million) are among the Giants who will be eligible for free agency after this season.

But there are other factors. Brian Wilson is eligible for his final year of arbitration in 2013. Buster Posey will be arbitration-eligible in 2013. Madison Bumgarner also could possibly join him. Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla are also arbitration-eligible.

Cain said on Saturday that he want to settle on a contract extension by the start of the season and is seeking “fair value.”

But what is fair value?

The Giants reportedly offered Lincecum a five-year, $100 million offer, which he rejected before agreeing to the two-year, $40.5 million deal.

MoreSplashHits thinks that offer was more designed for Cain than Lincecum. The Giants offered it knowing Lincecum would turn it down. Then they could turn and make a similar offer to Cain.

The fact that Cain hasn’t nibbled yet indicates he could be seeking more — perhaps along the lines of the five-year, $120 million deal Cliff Lee got from the Phillies last year.


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