Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Giants pay Lincecum for past glory
By Keith Law
By giving Tim Lincecum a two-year, $35 million contract, the Giants seem to be paying him for the pitcher he used to be during his peak years, not the pitcher he's been in the past two or even three seasons. It's a glorified thank-you gesture, one that might even have come from ownership rather than GM Brian Sabean. Lincecum has been close to replacement-level the past two years, yet the Giants will pay him like he's an average or better starter who's good for 200-plus innings.
He was just barely good enough in 2013 to restore some confusion to his future; after 2012 he seemed like a lock for a transition to relief, but he had stretches this year when he looked like a potential fourth starter in a market where those guys are often paid close to $10 million a year.
My ideal strategy for Lincecum, given what he's shown us in the past two years, would be to put him in the pen as a multi-inning relief weapon and hope that he regains a couple of mph on his fastball and that you can get 3 WAR of value out of 100-110 innings of relief. You can't pitch up in the zone as a starter with a flat 88-91 mph fastball as Lincecum tries to do, and while the changeup is his real out pitch, he ends up overusing the slider, a pitch he has acknowledged bothers his elbow, to avoid having to go back to the heat.
If Lincecum had plus command and could work down or side to side with the fastball, he could be a viable starter, but it's been two years now, and he's shown no signs of making that adjustment. The odds of him just giving the Giants what they're paying him to provide are extremely small, and there's far more downside potential than upside. The high salary may also discourage the team from shifting him to a relief role, if it doesn't recognize the money as a sunk cost.
The Giants do need help in the rotation, but this isn't the answer, nor would a 3-4 WAR season from Lincecum as a starter be enough to return this team to contention in the NL West.