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Friday, October 25, 2013

What Lincecum's Return Means For Offseason

Roughly a week ago news broke about Tim Lincecum declining a 2-year offer from the Giants while hinting that he'd like to test the market. However, within 72 hours of that news, the Giants and their former ace agreed to terms on a two-year deal that somewhat clouds the rest of the offseason.

First off, if you look at the two years and $35 million the Giants are guaranteeing a guy who's gone 20-29 with a 4.76 ERA combined over the last two seasons, it may leave you scratching your head. Even in this inflated pitcher's market, that's about double what most other arms not named Tim Lincecum would have received this winter. At his best the last two seasons, Lincecum has looked nothing more than a quality number 3 starter, and for the most part, a number four or five. For the Giants to be giving a guy like that $17.5M each of the next two seasons is a bit concerning. I mean, that's nearly ace money, and Lincecum has not been an ace since early 2011. That said, the Giants definitely had their reasons for keeping Timmy in the Bay Area. He's still a fan favorite and huge draw, and he still does posses the talent to be an above-average starting pitcher when he's on. He had the no-no, and we saw some him improve his ERA nearly a full point from his disastrous 2012 campaign, but he's still got a ways to go to get back to that front-end rotation guy. The Giants are taking a mighty big gamble he'll get there, but only time will tell.

I'm really on the fence about this deal right now, and will be until I see what plan the Giants have this winter and how giving Lincecum nearly $20M the next two seasons will hinder their budget. After all, even with Linecum in tow, and assuming he's slotted into the #3 rotation spot, the Giants still need two more rotation spots to fill. Sabean said himself they must upgrade the starting rotation, and bringing 4/5 of their under-achieving 2013 staff back would not be a step in that direction. That leads me to believe Ryan Vogelsong will not be back and in order for Sabes to keep true on that statement, he's going to have to go out and get another two solid arms in free-agency. Problem is, the Giants also need a quality outfielder too, and after giving Timmy that contract, already have nearly $130M committed towards their 2014 payroll. Sabean said before the end of the season that their 2014 budget would be around $145M, so that leaves roughly $15 million to find themselves two quality starters, a left fielder and some much needed depth in all areas.

We looked at a couple of starters last week (Ervin Santana, Matt Garza) that I wanted to see targeted, and I'd still like to see those guys pursued, but with payroll space limited and so many holes to fill, I can't see them being in the market for any of the top arms any longer. There are some intriguing names coming off down years who may be worth a gamble, and if they're indeed set on keeping that payroll under $150M for 2014, those are the names they'll be forced to look at. I know a couple that come to mind right away are Josh Johnson, Dan Haren, Edinson Volquez, Phil Hughes and Wandy Rodriguez. All those guys may be able to be signed to short-term, "prove yourself" type of contracts that could end up being steals if they stay healthy and pitch to their capabilities. But would signing any of those guys really be that much of an upgrade from Vogelsong and Yusmiero Petit? The one guy in that bunch that is semi-intriguing that I wouldn't mind giving a one-year, incentive-laden deal to become the #5 starter is Josh Johnson. He'd probably thrive in a return to the NL, and if he passed a physical and agreed to something reasonable I'd have no problem with Sabes rolling the dice on him. I'm also getting a strong Jason Vargas vibe for some reason. He's a California guy, has always been a solid, unspectacular starter and probably won't break the bank. Plus he's a lefty, and the Giants may want to balance out the rotation with another left-handed starter to go with Madison Bumgarner.

In summation, I'm glad Lincecum will be pitching for the Giants again, but at the same time, believe the money they ended up giving him could have been better spent. I think it ties their hands a bit for the upcoming free agent season in a year in which the Giants really don't have a lot of margin for error. As many good memories as he's provided Giants' fans, this is a "what have you done for me lately" era and the honeymoon period with Timmy has faded the last two years. If Lincecum pitches closer to what his career average at this point would suggest (3.46 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .233 BAA and a 3:1 K/BB ratio), then this move looks solid. If he's more the Lineceum of the last two seasons, this move really hurts the Giants over the next two seasons, similarly to the way Zito's hurt them the last seven.
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3 Comments:

  • At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Count me in on Jimenez if they could get him, and Johnson. Imagine that rotation if Johnson and Jimenez were both healthy:

    Bumgarner
    Cain
    Jimenez
    Lincecum
    Johnson

    That's five potential aces when they're all pitching good.

     
  • At 4:04 PM, Blogger Trevor said…

    Jimenez was slowly creeping up my charts and may be the number one arm out there when you factor in his potential, past success and lighting second half (1.82 ERA, 100 K's in 80 innings). He looks to be back to his pre-Cleveland form and will probably be a #1 or #2 wherever he lands.

     
  • At 7:49 AM, Anonymous daryl @ baseball batting tee said…

    I would have liked to see the Giants be a little more conservative in going after Lincecum. Even if they had offered him a few million less it would have probably been more than he could have gotten from any other other team.

     

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