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Is Tim Lincecum The Best Bargain In MLB?

Andrew GodfreyCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 01:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants looks on against the Philadelphia Phillies during a Major League Baseball game at AT&T Park on August 1, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Tim Lincecum may be the best bargain in Major League Baseball this season.

He is currently leading the majors in ERA with a 2.20 mark and in strikeouts with 198. He is only one win from being tied for the lead in wins with only Josh Beckett, Johan Santana and Adam Wainwright ahead of him with 13 wins.

Last season Lincecum won the NL Cy Young Award and, unless he has a breakdown of monumental proportions, probably will be the winner of that award again in 2009.

Lincecum is 13th in salary among Giants players this season. It is ironic that the highest paid player on the team is Barry Zito, who has an 8-10 record this season and earning $18.5 million this year. His salary is about 28 times higher than what Lincecum will earn this season.

Noah Lowry has not made a pitch this season and is earning $4.75 million.

This is the third major league season for Lincecum and he is only making $650,000, even though he won the Cy Young Award last season. A $245,000 raise is not much after a season like Lincecum had in 2008 when he earned $405,000, a mere $15,000 more than the minimum major league salary of $390,000.

It won’t be surprising if Lincecum signs a different agent for his negotiations this winter since Beverly Hills Sports Council clearly did not take advantage of his great season in 2008 to boost his salary in a more significant way.

The Giants can’t justify paying Edgar Renteria $18.5 million over two years while Lincecum only is earning slightly more than a million in his 2008 and 2009 contracts combined.

Renteria has hit two homers and has driven in 39 runs while hitting .249. He has an anemic on-base percentage of .305 and is slugging at a .311 clip. Renteria was very fortunate to have signed his contract before the clubs started offering significantly lower contracts to free agents.

He is making more money than one of the best hitters in the majors in Bobby Abreu, who is only making $5 million this season.

Back to Lincecum…he has posted a 30-8 record so far in 2008 and 2009. One of his most amazing stats is that he has allowed only 433 hits in 537 lifetime innings. He has also struck out 613 in that time frame and has a 10.3 strikeout per nine innings mark.

ESPN.com projects Lincecum to have 289 strikeouts this season, which would give him more than 700 strikeouts over his first three major league seasons at the age of 25.

If keeps up this pace, he could have 3,468 strikeouts by the time he is 37. A lot could happen in that time, though, so it may be too soon to speculate on what his stats may be in 2021.

One certainty is that even though Lincecum doesn’t qualify to be listed at baseball-reference.com in the list of strikeouts per nine innings, he would be near the top if he qualified.

Only Randy Johnson—with 10.60 strikeouts per nine innings—and Kerry Wood—with 10.37 strikeouts per nine innings—have better marks than the 10.27 mark posted by Lincecum in the 140-year history of Major League Baseball.

If he leads the NL in strikeouts in 2009 and 2010 he would be only be the third pitcher since 1952 to have three consecutive strikeout championships. The other two were Randy Johnson and Warren Spahn, who both led in strikeouts for four consecutive seasons.

There may be others who are being paid much less than what they are worth, but Lincecum best represents a player who is posting great numbers without be reimbursed accordingly.

The Giants would be wise to lock up Lincecum for years to come before they lose him to free agency, when his price may be more than they can afford.

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