Giants CEO Baer says club isn't low-balling Cain

March 29, 2012, 9:19 pm
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants CEO Larry Baer said the team remains in active negotiations with representatives for Matt Cain and sought to repair what he described as a mischaracterization that the club is making a lowball offer to their prized right-hander."We're both working very hard," said Baer on Thursday, responding to fan questions on a streaming web chat on "Our desire is for him toremain a Giant. Theres nothing weve seen from him that shows his desire isnot to be. We just keep plugging along."Theres been a lot ofmischaracterizations with hard-and-fast deadline or were lowballing him. Thoseare uneducated. I cant promise it will or wont happen thats going toultimately be the process of negotiation and Matts decision."The Giants and Cain have a soft deadline to conclude negotiations by the April 6 season opener, but that is more of a preference than a hard action date. Cain has said he is willing to listen to "anything of fair value." According to sources familiar with the talks, the two sides have been substantially far apart on determining that value.Baer said he didn't want to put a percentage on the chances of locking up Cain, 27, who would be a free agent after this season."Wed like to keep the homegrown players that areperforming and Matt Cain is at the top of the list," Baer said. "Weve been earnest in negotiationswith Matts representatives. We continue to be. Were working hard. Theyreworking hard."Last month, Giants GM Brian Sabean said the club has the wherewithal to sign both Cain and Tim Lincecum to long-term contracts. Lincecum agreed to a two-year, 40.5 million deal over the winter that will take him through the remainder of his arbitration eligibility but will not buy out any of his free-agent years. Cain has said the Lincecum negotiations would have an impact on his decision to commit long-term, citing the importance of pitching in a deep and talented rotation.The fans participating in the chat with Baer via Twitter weren't always civil and many used blue language to express their frustration that a deal with Cain hadn't been reached already. Fears might be spiking after the Los Angeles Dodgers were sold Tuesday for a record 2.15 billion, and new owner Magic Johnson pledged to be aggressive in courting top free-agent talent.Baer said he didn't expect the Dodgers sale would have a major impact on the free-agent market next winter. But taking Cain off that market certainly remains a top priority. He said the Giants are more interested in retaining their top players like Cain rather than going shopping for other big-name free agents such as Albert Pujols."Fans would like certain free agents like Albert Pujols ... but the first priority is homegrown playersthat we still think have a lot of productivity left," Baer said. "(But) we cant control the overall economics of player and agent. Its got to be something that allows us to field a team that will win.Industry sources believe Cain would fetch at least a six-year contract on the open-market, with an average annual value exceeding 20 million. The Giants are seeking a below-market contract, given the additional risk they would assume if Cain does not remain healthy this season.That hasn't been a problem throughout Cain's career. In each of the past four seasons, the rock-steady All-Star has ranked among the top seven NL pitchers in innings. Despite a minor scare last spring that turned up loose bodies in his elbow, Cain went on to pitch 221.2 innings and rank eighth in the NL with a 2.88 ERA.