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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Noah Lowry used the calendar to put Matt Cain's brand-new deal with the Giants in perspective.
"When he's done with that contract, he'll be almost my age," Lowry said.
He's largely correct. At 26, Lowry's still a relative pup. But Cain, 22, will only be 26 by the end of the 2010 season, when the four-year, $9 million contract that he signed Thursday expires. The Giants also hold an option for the 2011 season, meaning that Cain's contractual value is locked in through the years in which he's eligible for salary arbitration.
"It's great to be able to have this opportunity at this age and know that the Giants want to keep me around," Cain said.
The contract gives Cain financial security and the Giants cost certainty. It also demonstrates the belief within baseball that young pitching is a more valuable commodity than ever. Not only is Cain fortunate enough to benefit from this, but he's also in line to receive an even more lucrative deal as a potential free agent at the end of his current agreement.
Because, as Lowry pointed out, he'll still
be young then. "Your first contract is something you'll never forget," Lowry said. "Cain, being the young stud that he is, will probably have many more to come."
Giants general manager Brian Sabean demonstrated the importance he places on youthful pitching by refusing to part with the likes of Cain, Lowry and Jonathan Sanchez in a trade for a power hitter during the offseason.
Cain, a first-round selection in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, was especially in demand.
"In almost every conversation we had about a position player, Matt's name came up. He, in our eyes, was untouchable," Sabean said. "It would have taken an extreme case, which obviously didn't come up, for us to part with such a talent."
Cain's contract underscored the Giants' desire to keep him, although he would have remained under their control through 2011 anyway.
"If you can sign and produce your own and keep the right guys ... I think it's a sign of the times, whether it's with us or any other organization," Sabean said, acknowledging that trading left-hander Francisco Liriano to Minnesota for A.J. Pierzynski in the 2003-04 offseason was a missed chance for San Francisco to follow this strategy.
The Giants seized upon an opportunity to hold onto their own last year by signing Lowry to a four-year, $9.25 million extension with a $6.25 million option for 2010. Sabean indicated that Cain, who earned $328,000 last season, received a deal with similar parameters.
But even though Cain witnessed Lowry's good fortune, he wasn't certain that the Giants would approach him about a multiyear deal, also. "It was a surprise, and it was a good surprise, that all this happened," Cain said.
He earned it, in Sabean's view. "Matt got himself in this position because of his talent, work ethic and professionalism," Sabean said.
Cain proved he was a keeper last season by finishing 13-12 with a 4.15 ERA. Showing his flair for the spectacular, the right-hander became the first pitcher since 1957 to carry either a no-hitter or a one-hitter through the fifth inning in five starts.
"All he has to do is put his stuff on the plate," Sabean said. "When he does that, he's going to have one-hit stuff."
Cain's signing places four members of the Giants' starting rotation under contract through at least 2008. Besides him and Lowry, San Francisco signed Barry Zito to a celebrated seven-year, $126 million deal through 2013 (with an option for 2014) and Matt Morris' three-year deal expires after next season.
"It sets up the core of our rotation for the future. That's huge," Lowry said. "It's important for us to be able to play together and know we're going to be together for years to come. Just to know there's going to be that bond is exciting for me."
And for Cain. "I'm looking forward to being with these guys for the next four or five years," he said.