Two years ago, the prospect of San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum transitioning to the bullpen would have been laughable. Coming off four 13-plus-win seasons and two Cy Young Awards, the diminutive power arm seemed destined for a long, dominant career at the front end of San Francisco’s burgeoning rotation.
But in the last two seasons, the 28-year-old has looked like a different pitcher altogether—and not just because of a new, closely trimmed haircut. He posted a 15-loss season and a 5.18 ERA in 2012, and Lincecum is well on his way to similar numbers this year.
Tim Lincecum told me today that he's 100 percent focused on remaining a starter this season but is very open to relieving in future.— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) June 2, 2013
Lincecum: "If my career takes that turn I'm definitely open to changes, especially if it's beneficial to the team I'm playing for."— Andrew Baggarly (@CSNBaggs) June 2, 2013
There is more than one interesting point to take away from these comments.
Will Tim Lincecum ever return to Cy Young form?
First, Lincecum is slated to become a free agent following the 2013 season, and there doesn’t seem to be any certainty the Giants will choose to retain him, especially if he finishes this season hovering around the 5.00 ERA mark.
More interestingly, though, it seems Lincecum isn’t focused on driving up his market value for the offseason. Relievers don’t typically warrant a big payday on the open market, and it doesn’t make much sense for the righty to telegraph his willingness to make the transition ahead of a new contract.
Still, there is likely to be a bevy of teams in hot pursuit this winter, and there’s no guarantee Lincecum would actually make the move to the bullpen for any of those teams.
But given his comments on the potential switch—and his abysmal performance of late—it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see him in a setup role at some point in the near future.