But the Giants rotation, such a strength back in their 2012 World Series campaign, could ill-afford to lose their one-time ace to free agency after the 2013 season.
Coming off an All-Star nomination in 2011, Lincecum endured his worst career season in 2012 before rebounding slightly in 2013. During his contract year, Lincecum posted a 10-14 record with a 4.37 ERA and a 1.315 WHIP.
With those numbers, Lincecum has given up the title of "ace" to fellow starters Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain.
The Giants could have bet on their remaining starters to lead the rotation in 2014 and could have elected to let Lincecum go. Instead, they chose to re-sign the 29-year-old to a two-year, $35 million contract.
Tim Lincecum and the #SFGiants have agreed to terms on a two year deal covering the 2014-15 seasons, pending a physical.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) October 22, 2013
Did San Francisco overpay Lincecum?
Perhaps. This argument is backed by San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami who writes:
The Giants were using a different kind of economics in this deal, which isn’t tied to actual recent performance or cleared-eyed appraisals. The Giants love to pay their stars, their stars draw fans, their fans fill AT&T Park—even when the Giants aren’t putting together logical rosters—and that’s how the Giants have the cash to over-pay their stars.
Giants probably shouldn't do their normal spin job on the Tim Lincecum over-pay. Just say they can afford it and move on.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) October 23, 2013
Yet, Kawakami also argues that the deal makes sense given the fact that it was only for two years. It appears as if Lincecum and the Giants were not interested in taking a long-term gamble that would result in an expensive contract fiasco—take San Francisco's seven-year, $126 million contract with Barry Zito for example.
Still, there is plenty of negative reaction to the deal—examples of which can be found through ESPN.com's Sports Nation.
On the other hand, Giants fans were reluctant to see one of their stars go and held signs during his few home starts that read, "Timmy Don't Leave" and "SF Loves You!"
Simply put, the Giants need Lincecum more than Lincecum needs the Giants, at least for the immediate future.
It is worth pointing out that Lincecum will make less money than he did during 2012-13. Also, the Giants will look to replace the starting job once held by Zito.
San Francisco could have pursued other options such as bringing up one of their own farm talents or perhaps testing the free agent market for another starting pitcher.
While the Giants do have some pitching talent in their farm system, like righties Kyle Crick and Chris Stratton, these guys are likely a couple of years away from being major league ready. Others like Mike Kickham and Eric Surkamp also showed they are not quite there at the big-league level.
As far as the free agent market is concerned, there are plenty of starting pitchers available. Would the Giants want to potentially overpay on the free agent market or would they rather keep someone from their own ranks?
San Francisco elected to go with the latter. The Zito situation is yet to be addressed, but at least the Giants can count on four-fifths of their rotation carrying over to 2014, provided they exercise their club option on starter Ryan Vogelsong.
Taking all of this into consideration, the deal makes sense.
Keeping Lincecum in San Francisco does a number of things for the team aside from merely retaining a fan favorite.
Despite plenty of up-and-down moments last year, Lincecum had flashes of his old self. One cannot forget the no-hitter he threw against the San Diego Padres back on July 13. His 2013 strike-out-to-walk ratio was almost identical to his 2011 All-Star season.
If the Giants can get that Lincecum for the majority of the next two years, they would be happy and their investment will be worthwhile.
Would San Francisco be able to say that about one of their prospects or a possible free agent at this point?
There is no salary cap in baseball. It's not your money, Giants fans. Good move to re-sign Tim Lincecum.— John Branch (@JohnBranchNYT) October 23, 2013
How should the Giants have addressed the Lincecum deal?
Sure, Lincecum is not the elite pitcher he once was. Yes, the Giants probably overpaid him. But they can get away with it considering the short length of the contract. He should, at least, be a holdover option until some of the Giants' pitching prospects are better developed.
Lincecum will enter 2014 as the team's likely fourth starter. He will make a lot of money considering that role, but at least the Giants will not have to scramble to find a replacement for him right away.
If a few more dollars were what it took to ensure this, the money is well spent.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.