Progress stalls on Cain’s contract talks

The chances of the San Francisco Giants signing right-hander Matt Cain to a contract extension before Opening Day are rapidly diminishing.

Cain’s representatives spoke Wednesday with Giants officials, and the two sides failed to make progress toward a deal, according to major league sources.

No further discussions are planned, sources said, increasing the possibility that Cain could become a free agent at the end of the season.

While Cain has not set a deadline for completing negotiations by Opening Day, he has said that he does not want to think about his contract status once games begin.

The Giants, who also do not want Cain distracted during the season, are operating under the same premise, sources said.

Cain, 27, is seeking a contract that will reflect his position as one of the top pitchers in the game. As a free agent, he might command a deal of at least six years and $20 million per season.

The Giants, however, are reluctant to pay Cain free-agent money a full season before he is scheduled to hit the open market, sources said.

A failure by the two sides to reach a deal before Opening Day would not necessarily ensure that Cain would leave the Giants. The two sides could resume talks during the team’s exclusive negotiating window at the end of the season.

The Giants, however, also face a difficult long-term negotiation with right-hander Tim Lincecum, their two-time Cy Young Award winner.

Lincecum, who in January signed a two-year, $40.5 million contract, is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season.

A mammoth new deal for Cain almost certainly would make it more difficult for the Giants to retain Lincecum, who according to sources sought a seven- to eight-year extension before settling for a shorter term.

Lincecum, earning an average of $20.25 million in his final two years of arbitration, would figure to command at least $25 million per season on the open market if he stayed healthy.

The numbers for Lincecum and Cain over the past three seasons are quite comparable. Lincecum is 44-31 with a 2.87 ERA in 654 2/3 innings, while Cain is 39-30 with a 2.97 ERA in 666 2/3 innings.

Cain’s career record is 69-73, but that is largely due to poor run support. His career ERA-plus of 125 is the highest for a starting pitcher with a losing record in at least 100 decisions, according to Baseball Prospectus (ERA-plus is ERA adjusted to league and ballpark; 100 is average).

Cain also pitched 21 1/3 innings in the 2010 postseason without allowing an earned run, helping the Giants win their first World Series in San Francisco.

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