Tim Lincecum might not be the best pitcher on the San Francisco Giants right now, and he certainly will not be for much longer. Madison Bumgarner had a sterling season in 2011; Matt Cain quietly had his best, too.
Lincecum is getting expensive, and very soon, it might be in San Francisco's best interest to deal its most marketable star of the post-Barry Bonds era in order to bolster an organization with some gaping holes.
That might sound sacrilegious to Giants fans, but it makes sound baseball sense. The Giants could easily get enough in return for Lincecum to justify a trade, especially if they know his ultimate asking price for a long-term contract and are unwilling to pay it.
Lincecum isn't the only hurler in that boat. Teams are starting to wise up a bit: Burning out an elite pitcher in his late 20s only hurts if you're the one holding the bag. Trades of hard-worked young pitchers Jake Peavy, Dan Haren, Ubaldo Jimenez, Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos in recent years prove GMs with the luxury of time to build a winner are now more willing than ever to trade top-tier pitchers at the peak of their value.
Here are five guys, including Lincecum, who could be next in that line.