Tim Lincecum has been reluctant to sign a contract extension with the San Francisco Giants this offseason, and since his value is as high as it will ever be, the Giants may need to trade him. They will also be able to shed the huge salary he will garner in arbitration over the next few years, and with that money the Giants could rebuild by signing a multitude of players.
Lets see why the New York Yankees should be the first team in line if Lincecum is put on the trade block.
The New York Yankees need starting pitching. CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are their only two starting pitchers that I even remotely trust in a must-win game.
A.J. Burnett can be dominant, as we saw in Game 4 of the 2011 American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers, but I have seen him give up five or more runs in fewer than two innings far too many times to trust him in the playoffs.
Phil Hughes is best served in the bullpen. Yes, he won 18 games in 2010, but his 4.19 ERA was far from impressive. At 25 years old, he can improve, but as of right now he is nothing more than a fourth or fifth starter.
Freddy Garcia had a very good 2011, posting a 3.62 ERA, but I do not trust the 35-year-old to repeat his 2011 season, especially since he wore out and posted a 4.45 ERA after the All-Star Break. I am glad the Yankees re-signed him for 2012, but I do not want to see Garcia pitch a meaningful game in October unless he proves he can pitch a full season.
Is anybody in this free-agent pitching class worth top dollar? Not in my opinion.
C.J. Wilson is the best option, but at 31 years old he is not really a long-term solution. Wilson has also only been in the rotation for two years, and his 5.79 ERA in the 2011 postseason did not help his case. Throw in a fastball that averages only 91 miles per hour, control issues and a reported asking price of six years and $120 million, and the Yankees should pass.
Yu Darvish is the other big name on the market, but he is not much better. Yes, he has been very impressive in Japan, even more so than Daisuke Matsuzaka. I also outlined all of the good things about Yu Darvish here. But while he has a good chance to succeed, I do not think he is worth a total of $100 million or more for his posting fee and contract.
Mark Buehrle is the best option on the free-agent market, but he is not the ace the Yankees are looking for. Buehrle will be 33-years old on Opening Day, and while he has thrown for 200+ innings in 10 straight years, his 3.59 ERA at US Cellular Field is not worth the price. Some team will offer Buehrle four years at $12 to $15 million per year, and the Yankees would be wise to look elsewhere.
Roy Oswalt has back issues, and the Yankees have ruled him out. Next.
Edwin Jackson is the last pitcher worth considering. At 28 years old, Jackson is young enough, but his inconsistency and 6.67 K/9 in 2011 worry me. Jackson is a possibility, but he is not the pitcher that the Yankees need.
Jair Jurrjens has been linked to the Yankees; the New York Daily News wrote that the Atlanta Braves called the Yankees about shortstop Eduardo Nunez. As soon as it was thought the Braves were shopping Jurrjens, people were asking why. Jurrjens just came off a season where he posted a 2.96 ERA before getting hurt, and at 25 years old he is still young. The answer is his "serious" knee injury, 5.33 K/9 and diminishing fastball, which currently averages 88 miles per hour.
The Chicago Cubs could trade Matt Garza, and his 3.32 ERA in 2011 was pretty good. Garza has pitched at least 184 innings in the last four seasons and spent three years in Tampa Bay, but his 3.87 ERA while he was there was less than impressive. The Yankees need an ace, not another third starter. Garza could be a good backup option, but he should not be on top of the Yankees' wish list.
The Oakland Athletics' Gio Gonzalez has pitched over 200 innings in the last two seasons and posted a 3.17 ERA. A 26-year-old lefty with an ERA under 3.20 is worth considering, but he had a 3.94 ERA after the All-Star Break and pitched in the weak AL West.
Gonzalez was not impressive against the best teams in the majors in 2011. He had a 4.22 ERA against the Rangers, 6.17 ERA against the Red Sox and 8.18 ERA against the Yankees. Gonzalez is a very good pitcher that the Yankees should consider enough to call Billy Beane, but if Beane asks for Jesus Montero I would hang up the phone.
Felix Hernandez is the big name people want to see come to New York, but it will not happen. The Seattle Mariners will not trade their 25-year-old Cy Young Award winner for any price.
To sum it all up: the trade market is thin.
Do you really trust Bartolo Colon, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett? Garcia might have one more year left, and Hughes has some promise, but I cannot trust any of them in September and October.
The Yankees need to find another ace to go with CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova for their three-man rotation for the postseason.
Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are currently in Triple-A. Betances did make two appearances in the Majors in 2011, but neither pitcher is ready for an entire season. I would not be surprised if both Banuelos and Betances find themselves in New York when rosters expand, but unless they dominate they will not be on the postseason roster. Even if they do make the roster, Banuelos and Betances will come out of the bullpen.
In other words, the Yankees have no internal options. They must make a move, and since both the free-agent and trade markets are thin, Tim Lincecum is their best option.
At 27 years old, Tim Lincecum still has a lot of gas left in the tank.
The New York Yankees are an aging team, and they need a young ace to go with CC Sabathia. Sabathia is already 31 years old; in five years, when Sabathia's contract expires, Lincecum will only be 32. That means losing Sabathia will be less devastating because Lincecum, Banuelos/Betances and Nova will be there to soften the blow.
Tim Lincecum has spent five years in the major leagues, and despite the San Francisco Giants terrible offense he has won 69 games due to his career 2.98 ERA. Lincecum has pitched at least 212 innings in four straight seasons, so durability is not an issue, despite his small stature and unorthodox delivery.
In order to succeed in New York, a pitcher must have three things: a mid-90s fastball, a high K/9 and a high ground-ball rate. Lincecum has a fastball that averages 94 miles per hour, a career 9.87 K/9 and an incredible 50-percent ground-ball rate.
Tim Lincecum is 27 years old and has won two Cy Young Awards. Lincecum has been an elite pitcher for many years and has proven that he is an ace, not just a one-year wonder.
Perhaps the most important intangible a pitcher must have to succeed in New York is the ability to succeed under pressure. Tim Lincecum has it.
Lincecum went into the 2010 postseason with zero experience and came out with a 4-1 record, 2.43 ERA, a two-hit shutout, the World Series clinching win and a ring.
Lincecum has proven he can shine under bright lights in the only place with brighter lights than New York: the World Series. Can he put it all together and win a World Series in New York? I think so; how about you?