Why I'm Glad (Insert Giants Pitcher) Is Getting Paid

If the GIANTS don't pay him, how will he afford green fees?
The San Francisco Giants pitching staff is widely regarded as one of the best in baseball. At the same time, the San Francisco Giants pitching staff is not the highest-paid pitching staffs in baseball. For now.

Take a look at these numbers from 2011 (numbers c/o Cot's Baseball Contracts):

Halladay ($20M)
+ Lee ($11M)
+ Hamels ($9.5M)
+ Oswalt ($16M)
+ Blanton ($8.5M)
+ Kendrick ($2.45M) 
= ~$58M
Beckett ($15.75M)
+ Lackey ($15.25M)
+ Matsuzaka ($10M)
+ Lester ($5.75M)
+ Buchholz ($0.555M)
+ Wakefield ($2M)
= ~$50M
Sabathia ($23M)
+ Burnett ($16.5M)
+ Hughes ($2.7M)
+ Garcia ($1.5M)
+ Nova ($0.433M)
+ Colon ($0.9M)
= ~ $45.1M

Lincecum ($13M)
+ Cain ($7M)
+ Bumgarner ($0.45M)
+ Vogelsong ($0)
+ Zito ($18.5M)
+ Sanchez ($4.8M) 
= ~ $45M 

So... last year the Giants had one of, if not the best, starting staff in the league. And they didn't pay out the nose for it, compared to the rest of the league. Granted, it HELPS that you had five of your main six come out of your own farm system, which will save money. But also, one of those starters is Barry Zito, who is getting paid $20M a year to do nothing. And another is Tim Lincecum, who for the second year in a row has filed a record number for arbitration, and settled for a contract worth about as much as he asked for.

Does it matter that in 2012 the Giants will be paying for having such a good staff? I'd say no. And even so, will they really be paying that much? Here's the 2012 numbers, based on what we can guess the rotations are going to be.

1) Philadelphia Phillies
Halladay ($20M)
+ Lee ($21.5M)
+ Hamels ($15M)
+ Blanton ($8.5M)
+ Kendrick ($3.585M)
+ Willis ($0.85M)
= $69.435M
2) New York Yankees
Sabathia ($23M)
+ Burnett ($16.5M)
+ Kuroda ($10M)
+ Garcia ($4M)
+ Hughes ($3.2M)
= $56.7M
3) San Francisco Giants
Lincecum ($18M)
+ Cain ($15M)
+ Bumgarner ($0.45M)
+ Vogelsong ($3M)
+ Zito ($19M) 
= $55.45M
Zambrano ($18M)
+ Johnson ($13.75M)
+ Nolasco ($9M)
+ Sanchez ($8M)
+ Buehrle ($6M)  
= $54.75M
5) Boston Red Sox
Beckett ($15.75M)
+ Lackey ($15.25M)
+ Matsuzaka ($10M)
+ Lester ($7.625M)
+ Buchholz ($3.5M)
+ Miller ($1.04M)
= $53.165M

Ok, so the Giants moved up when it comes to paying the guys on the mound. But for the quality of arms that the San Francisco farm system and front office has been able to put together, can we as fans complain? Is this not an elite pitching staff that deserves to be in the top three? And if you take out Zito's contract ($19M), EVEN if you also subtract Burnett from the Yankees ($16.5M), Blanton from the Phillies ($8.5M), and Matsuzaka from the Red Sox ($10M), the Giants are even farther down that line.

Other teams aren't that far behind the Giants in spending on their rotation, but lag far behind in the quality of arm and what they mean to the team as a whole. Look at what those other teams spend on the rest of their players and you'll see some disparity there as well. The Yankees, with their hitters, will pay their starting staff a little more than 25% of total payroll. The Phillies will be closer to 35-40%, with the contracts to Papelbon, Utley, and Howard in there as well.

The Marlins are a different story, but they almost doubled their payroll, which is projected at about $110M right now, so their staff is right around 50%. And the Red Sox, with their projected payroll at $190M, are paying about 25%, just like the Yanks. The Giants' pitching is their lifeblood. The Giants will spend about 43% of their $130M payroll on those five pitchers in 2012.

When it comes to using that rainy day fund to load up on pitching, I'm inclined to agree with those who picked pitching over hitting. The Giants did that. Good hitting will help, but look at the Rangers in the past. Look at the Blue Jays. Look at the Brewers. Teams with great offenses get far, but as we saw in the 2010 World Series, good pitching will win out over good hitting every time.

Sure, there are going to be situations where we look at the lineup this year and think, "This is what $130M gets you?" But then Matt Cain throws 225 innings with a 2.80 ERA, Tim Lincecum wins 20 games for the first time in his career, Madison Bumgarner wins the Retroactive Rookie of the Year Award, Ryan Vogelsong wins Comeback Player of the Year: The Sequel, and Barry Zito donates 75% of his salary to Colbert SuperPAC, we'll all look back and think about how grateful we are that our ticket stubs helped keep these guys around.