MLB Trade Talk: Could SF Giants Trade Tim Lincecum, Sign Prince Fielder?
In perusing the web on a slow news day in baseball, I came across an article written by Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, in which he discusses the possibility of trading San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum.
My first thought upon seeing the title of the article was, "Is this man totally daft?"
However, after reading a bit more about what he had to say, I actually found myself agreeing with several of his points.
The Giants were the worst team in baseball in terms of run production, placing in the bottom fourth of MLB in just about every statistical offensive category of note. While their pitching and a couple of hot bats carried them to the World Series championship in 2010, no amount of great pitching was going to help them in 2011, as their anemic lineup consistently failed time after time.
While Morosi points out that help is clearly available through the free-agent market, that help will be very expensive to purchase. And with the Giants' pitching staff—or at least the top three in the rotation—due to receive lofty raises shortly, the Giants may be unable to go after the help through free agency that they so desperately need.
So, does trading away the staff ace really seem that outrageous?
Let's explore the options, and also other blockbuster moves that could happen along with a possible trade...
1. Trading Lincecum Now While He's Still at Top Value
Trading Tim Lincecum now would help the San Francisco Giants in several different ways.
First, Lincecum is just coming off a two-year, $23 million contract and has already indicated he is not inclined to sign a long-term deal.
"It's just easier for me mentally not to have to put that kind of pressure on yourself," Lincecum told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Not that you don't want to succeed, but when you're signed to a long-term deal, it's like saying, 'I'm going to live up to every expectation.'"
"That's why I like going year to year, so I can improve on it and not sit on what I've done."
While Lincecum also said he would be open to signing a two-year deal that would take him through his final arbitration years, it will likely come at a very steep price for the Giants.
Lincecum's value is through the roof right now. A two-time Cy Young Award winner and still only 27 years of age, Lincecum would fetch the Giants a great package of both major league-ready players and prospects, and give them the money saved by not signing him to use on other free-agent pieces to add to their struggling offense.
Trading a Staff Ace Historically Has Led to Huge Dividends
Think it sounds crazy to deal a Cy Young Award-winning staff ace? It's happened quite frequently, especially of late.
Cliff Lee wasn't just traded once, but TWICE, and both times his former teams netted very nice packages.
A year before the Indians traded Lee, they also traded away another Cy Young Award winner, CC Sabathia, to the Milwaukee Brewers for four prospects, including Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley.
Think about the package that Lincecum could net in any deal.
Giants Can't Afford to Keep Entire Pitching Staff Long Term
By the end of the 2012 season, the San Francisco Giants will be shelling out a boatload of cash just for their front three starters—Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong.
After Vogelsong's outstanding 2011 campaign, he will be due for a sizable raise over his major league minimum salary, and the Giants will likely offer a two- or three-year deal to retain him.
Cain will be entering the final season of his three-year, $27.25 million deal, during which he will make $15 million. Coming off a career year in which he achieved personal bests in ERA (2.88) and WHIP (1.083), it's logical to assume that Cain will be rewarded handsomely for his efforts.
Lincecum made $14 million last season, and will likely command at least $20 million annually within the next year or two. Trading Lincecum now gives GM Brian Sabean that needed flexibility to be able to go after the likes of Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, Albert Pujols and other stars who will be needed to shore up their shaky offense.
GM Brian Sabean Can Go After Multiple Free Agents with Lincecum Trade
The San Francisco Giants tried fixing their offense with band-aids in 2011, signing Miguel Tejada, trading for Orlando Cabrera and re-signing Pat Burrell, Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff—all of whom failed miserably.
By trading Lincecum, GM Brian Sabean can go after multiple free agents and really make a splash in re-tooling his offense. Prince Fielder would be the logical monster in free agency to aggressively pursue, and shortstop Jose Reyes as well, giving Sabean and the Giants an instant fix to their problems of 2011.
Giants Rotation Can Still Be Stellar Without Lincecum
Yes, the San Francisco Giants rotation would take a huge hit by trading Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. However, it could be argued that Lincecum was actually the third-best starter on the staff in 2011.
Matt Cain was the workhorse of the staff, logging 221.2 innings and posting personal bests in both ERA and WHIP. Ryan Vogelsong returned from his years in Japan to post the best numbers of his career (13-7, 2.71 ERA).
While Lincecum certainly wasn't terrible, he also wasn't heart-stopping either. With a young Madison Bumgarner (13-13, 3.21 ERA), and with prospect Eric Surkamp waiting in the wings, the Giants will still boast a rotation that would be among the best in the National League.