With Hunter Pence now locked up for the foreseeable future, the San Francisco Giants will now shift their focus to coming to terms with the San Francisco icon known as Tim Lincecum, a move which would be prudent, but only at the right price.
What is the right price, however, for a two-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher who in theory should be entering the prime of his career but instead has fallen on the worst of times at the worst possible time?
That’s the million-dollar question, one that the Giants would be wise to take their time answering.
While Lincecum is expected to test the open market and see how far his value extends, he will most likely find that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
As it stands, the best option for all parties involved would be for the Giants to extend Lincecum a qualifying offer, which is an average of the top 125 contracts in baseball, as reported by Jason Collette of ESPN.com. The deal would pay him $14 million next season and leave him eligible to test the market once again at the end of the season.
The last two years have proven to be underwhelming at best, and the market for undersized pitchers with control issues and decreasing velocity will ultimately prove to be just as underwhelming as his recent performances.
Still, the track record is staggering, and giving up on a guy who once exemplified the gold standard of pitching would be far too shortsighted. While he wasn’t special by any means this season, it was a vast improvement over the debacle that was 2012.
He gave up fewer home runs and walks, improved on his strikeout total and even trimmed his ERA from 5.18—the highest among all qualified starters—to 4.37. He’s just starting to figure out how to pitch with his decreasing raw skills, and I believe that the Giants are curious enough to see if he and pitching coach Dave Righetti can piece together the next stage in his career.
For Lincecum, accepting the qualifying offer would allow him to build on last season and in the process, raise his market value. While the $100 million offer the Giants offered him at the beginning of 2012 will probably never come to fruition again, a good year would at least help salvage some of his value.
Re-signing Lincecum for at least one more year would be wise for the Giants for a number of reasons.
His connection with the fans is greater than any other player on the team, and he’s a huge draw, as the photo above shows. Even with his struggles the last two seasons, he’s received unwavering support. Helping to win two World Series and winning two Cy Youngs will do that. The promise of ticket sales alone is enough to justify the contract.
Also, as stated before, his performance did improve and he did finish the season on a high note, going 5-3 in his last 11 starts. There is enough promise in him figuring it out to keep him on board.
Lincecum is still as dirty as ever and possesses above-average stuff. Control is still an issue, and the stats aren’t likely to change if he can’t rectify that problem. Strides were made, however, and his value to the Giants extends past just the field.
A one-year deal for above-market value is the smartest thing both sides could do.