Posted October 23, 2013

Giants gift Tim Lincecum with inexplicable $35 million, two-year extension

San Francisco Giants, Tim Lincecum
Tim Lincecum has yet to regain his Cy Young form of old, but inked a new extension with the Giants. (George Nikitin/AP)

Tim Lincecum hasn’t regained his Cy Young form, but he inked a new extension with the Giants. (George Nikitin/AP)

Giants general manager Brian Sabean knows he’s allowed to sign free agents from other teams, right?

Sabean just re-signed Tim Lincecum to a two-year contract worth a reported $35 million, complete with a no-trade clause, a contract that, given Lincecum’s performance for San Francisco over the last two years, doesn’t make a lick of sense.

The contract is a slight pay-cut for Lincecum, who was due to hit free agency coming off a two-year, $40.5 million deal that covered his final two arbitration-eligible seasons. He signed that deal coming off a 2010 season in which he posted a 2.74 ERA (127 ERA+) over 217 innings and finished sixth in the Cy Young voting. Over the last two seasons, Lincecum has posted a 4.76 ERA, which translates to a 72 ERA+ that is tied for the worst among major-league pitchers with 300 or more innings over those two seasons. The men he is tied with are Edinson Volquez, who was released by the Padres in August, and, in what should have been a giant red flag for Sabean, Barry Zito.

Lincecum won consecutive Cy Young awards for the Giants in 2008 and ’09. In 2010, he pitched them to their first World Series victory since moving to San Francisco, and amid his struggles the last two seasons was a key long reliever in the team’s 2012 championship run. This past July, he threw a rousing 148-pitch no-hitter against the Padres. It’s not a mystery why Sabean and Giants fans in general are fond of Lincecum, but $35 million is a lot of money to spend on a player whose value appears to be purely sentimental at this point.

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Lincecum hasn’t simply pitched in bad luck over the last two seasons. Per Brooks Baseball, his average fastball dropped from 93.1 mph in 2011 to 90.9 this past season, his home-run and walk rates have increased since his Cy Young seasons and his strikeout rate, though still close to one per inning, hit a career low in 2013. Each of those changes on its own seems minor, but together virtually every aspect of his performance on the mound is headed in the wrong direction as he approaches his 30th birthday next June. And it’s not as though he appeared to turn a corner toward the end of the 2013 season. Lincecum posted a 4.32 ERA in September while striking out just seven men per nine innings and had a 4.54 mark in the 13 starts following his no-hitter in July.

This is not a make-good contract — $35 million is too rich for that — and the Giants don’t need two more years to see what Lincecum has left given that he had plenty of opportunities to show them in 66 starts over the last two seasons. Lincecum said in June that he’d be open to a move to the bullpen, but the highest salary in history for a closer is the $15 million Mariano Rivera earned every year since 2008 on contracts no longer than three years, and the Giants own Sergio Romo for another year.

If the Giants were really determined to keep Lincecum, they likely could have simply made him a qualifying offer, which this offseason means a $14.1 million, one-year contract. Then, let the price of that deal and the added cost of a lost draft pick by whatever team would sign him dry up the limited market there was for his services to begin with.

Instead, San Francisco, a team that is not prone to reckless spending (except in the cases of Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand) is paying a player who has been the worst starting pitcher in baseball over the last two seasons $17.5 million a year over the next two. It’s doubtful that any other team would have given Lincecum nearly this much money.

This contract is not a potential albatross because of its brevity, but there is almost no chance that the Giants get their money’s worth from it. Even as a sentimental move, it’s a failure. It’s difficult to imagine anyone wanting to continue to watch an iconic player scuffle along as an overpaid shadow of his former self. Apparently, Brian Sabean does.

40 comments
Paul Simon
Paul Simon

$entimental contract, Tim Lincecum will bring $$$$  to the yard.

DaveNico
DaveNico

Proof positive that the value of the $USD is deflating before our very eyes.

case111
case111

considering cain stunk last year, the availability of other decent pitchers, the sentimental feelings towards lincecum- this is an inexplicable article.


cain was over paid. lincecum probably- but they arent stuck w/ lincecum as long a they are stuck with cain

William27
William27

there was no need to give him 35 million, no one else would have done so. they could have given him 25 million for two years

TwitSpif
TwitSpif

The contract should stipulate that he re-grows his long hair. That's what puts people in the seats. Hub-a-la-hubala. 

dr227
dr227

There's no salary cap and the Giants makes all kinds of money.   Timmy fills seats and that will pay his contract.


Also.....I wouldnt be surprised to see him become the closer.

oasis1994
oasis1994

For that type of money they should have gone out and got a bat this winter. No other team would have signed him for that much unless there were a few more years to go along with that 35 million. 


What do I know though; the Dodgers took Volquez from the Padres. Maybe they would have signed Tim as well. 

sportsGuy12
sportsGuy12

actually it's not that absurd, i'm actually surprised he agreed to a 2yr contract

GodofAcid
GodofAcid

I'm pretty surprised at how many people hate this deal. Has he earned that money? No.. but he's 29 which means he should be in his prime, former Cy Young winner, and you can land him on a 2 year deal where he'll hopefully step up and try to earn his next contract. If he doesn't, it was 2 years! That's not going to cripple a team. Does anyone remember what Alfonso Soriano did in Washington during his contract year? It happens, guys go out and play to their full potential when their money is on the line, especially in a case where it's the last time they're going to truly get paid. Maybe Tim goes out and busts his butt, pitches like his former self, and the Giants are in contention for another World Series if a few other things go their way. I'd take a 2 year chance on that.

BillyG
BillyG

As a big fan of the Giants and Lincecum, I was not looking forward to the day they let him go....but at this price it is most likely a mistake to keep him...but crossing my fingers he works out the buds...I mean bugs in his problem :)  Bay Area fans hated seeing Joe Montana go too, but it was the right thing to do at that time, at that price.  It would be nice if sometimes athletes would put their money where their mouth is and instead of wanting guaranteed $ after they have become stars, they would take something like $1M per win (with some qualifiers in there to keep management from limiting "official" wins).  Win 20 games next year and in 2015 and you get $40M total.  Go 10-14  two years in a row, and get "only" $20M those 2 years...because that is "all" you earned. Or, to take out the variances of the team around him, base it on ERA.  Below 2.0, you get $22M/yr.  2.1-2.5, $20M, 2.5-3.0 $17.5M (what he will now get, and what his ERA was in his Cy Young years), 3.0-3.5 $15M, 3.5-4.0 $12M, and if an ERA over 4.0, take off $1M for every 0.10 of ERA above 4.0.  Have a 4.5 ERA, and you get a paultry $7M.  At a 5.0ERA you he would still get $2M....and my grandmother could get close to a 5.0 ERA, and she has been gone for 36 years.

Matthew Peake
Matthew Peake

This has ownership's fingerprints all over it.  Giants fans (I am a lifelong one) love Lincecum.  He's a draw.  He's the face of the franchise.  The are virtually no decent FA pitchers on the market (Garza and Josh Johnson are about it.  Garza was terrible at the end of the year and Johnson is a big injury risk).  The Giants have nothing beyond Cain and Bumgarner in the rotation.  They definitely overpaid.  That said, I'm happy and so are all the Giants fans that I know and talk Giants with.  They are paying in part for what he has done for the franchise.  By the way, for all of the talk of fastball velocity, it should be noted that in game 5 of the 2010 WS (Clincher - Lincecum went 8 IP, 4 hits 1 run 10k), he averaged just under 91 mph in that game.  Watching him at the end of this year, he is in love (maybe too much) with his cutter - pitch has HUGE movement.  For Lincecum, it all comes down to fastball command, even at 90.  When he has it, he is an elite pitcher.  Here's hoping he can find it consistently.

joeblog
joeblog

"the Giants, a team that is not prone to reckless spending (at least as it pertains to Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand)" ... either you're saying Zito was "not . . . reckless spending" or you didnt proofread your article.  which is it?

AlainLapointe
AlainLapointe

At least the Giants can count on him if they make the playoffs cause the guy is a gamer , cannot say the same thing about Prince Floppy !!!

kyyled5
kyyled5

As a Giants fan, this is indefensible. You get Zito off the books and throw that money at his right-handed equivalent stats-wise? 17.5M would have bought a hell of a left fielder.

DanaBunner
DanaBunner

As a Giants fan, I have been giving this some thought.  Lincecum did throw multiple great games this seasons, showing that he still possesses high level skills.  Thus there is legitimate reason for hope that he can get closer to his old form.  On the other hand, he's been a well below average innings-eater for two years.  Thus the offer needed to be somewhere in between "innings eater" and #2 or #3 starter.  In my opinion that is at best 2 years for $24M.  No way is he worth $35M.  That is ridiculous.  Very surprised the Sabean could be so irrational.

decredico
decredico

Keep the editorializing out of a news story, fool.  This is horrible journalism.

Richard40
Richard40

Man, Sabean must know something we don't.   I will give him the benefit of the doubt, as he and his team have won two of the last three World Series, but...

Kalzy
Kalzy

Yes...this is great news for the National league . He's straight up done. The Giants are about drawing a crowd and pleasing a lame fan base that knows nothing...zero about baseball. Gravy trainers, the lot.

hubrob107
hubrob107

seems like a personal vendetta, why do you care about his money

Shaun1
Shaun1

Dang Corcoran. Don't sugar-coat it, tell us how you really feel.

DerekJosephClarke
DerekJosephClarke

@dr227 yes indeed Timmy fills seats.  when SF comes to Cincinnati, on game day I only look for tickets if Timmy is pitching....

Michael10
Michael10

@sportsGuy12 It's completely absurd when guys like Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez are signing for $19MM per season...

Maybe they're hoping to indirectly push Clayton Kershaw's price tag well beyond the $300MM he's already been offered with bogus market inflation?

joe6647
joe6647

@GodofAcid If he was going to pitch his butt off it would have been this year, the last year of a two year deal.  If he didnt pitch like it was a contract year this time (with declining numbers to boot) theres nothing that points to him improving.


The article showed that his K/9 innings are down, his fastball speed is down, his walks and HR's per 9 innings are also up since his Cy Young Award in 2010.  Its not a long term deal, but its not money well spent either.

GodofAcid
GodofAcid

@Matthew Peake You hit the nail on the head when you said there are no decent pitchers that are going to hit the market. People don't understand this. They act like a team can just go out and pick up good pitching because they have money. Having money is only one part of the equation. Nobody wants to let go of their good pitchers nowadays and it's rare to have anyone worthwhile on the market, that's why you see teams overspending on trades for mediocre pitchers at the trade deadline every year. Bud Norris was one of the prizes this year, nough said.

Chavez Ravine
Chavez Ravine

@AlainLapointe 

So a "gamer" is someone who performs well in the post-season, but not in the games that would help the team GET to the  post-season?  Because those games obviously aren't "gamer-y" or important enough.  

ooook.

roundhouse_c
roundhouse_c

@kyyled5 

This isn't a straight match up with Zito's contract.  If you actually 'thought' about this at all, you'd realize that they were paying both Lincecum and Zito last year so they really have approximately $18m or so for a left fielder too.  Some of the posts on this deal are just way off and lack any understanding of what is really being spent from year to year.

uncleJeff
uncleJeff

@kyyled5 The obvious question is... What left-fielder might that have bought?

Charles58
Charles58

@Kalzy I have to agree. The Giants fan base has an extraordinary number of bandwagon jumpers and poseurs in it, who don't know much about baseball. There is a great core fan base, but the rest of the people in the park spend most of their time on their iPhones during games, wear those silly panda hats, and are more there to be seen than to actually watch a baseball game. And my biggest pet peeve: the ushers who won't let you go back to your seats when the batter is in the batter's box like its a freakin tennis match. So lame!

Dirty_Bob
Dirty_Bob

@Kalzy  

They also seem to be about winning World Series lately...

therantguy
therantguy

@hubrob107 Yes, how dare an author on a sports site filled with opinion give his opinion on a contract that everybody and their grandmother can see is absurd. Who was going to give him 14.1 million and lose a draft pick? Tell me what team was going to that route? <crickets chirping> so that makes the deal insane. period.

AlainLapointe
AlainLapointe

Perhaps you can beat a 148 pitches no hitter , oooook

RussellTenzingCampbell
RussellTenzingCampbell

@roundhouse_c @kyyled5 Or they could have just offered Lincecum what hes worth (factoring in sentimental value and past performance), let's say 10 million for 2 years and instead of having $18m left over they could of had $30.5m left over.

DrColeKilla
DrColeKilla

@Charles58:   I thoroughly agree with you on those damned ushers at AT&T and the influx of "hipsters" that make me yearn for the 'Stick days.  Trying to return to my seat during a live at bat in a throw-away game last September, I was harangued to "listen to the rules and wait."  I couldn't help but grow angrier by the minute against a wall in VR while a blonde neophyte wearing heels and a turtleneck sweater proceeding to berate me, as I attempted to climb the aisle.  I guess she was offended by my broken in Giants hat and desire to watch the game from my paid seat.   

 @Kalzy:  To label all Giants fans as knowing nothing about baseball and bandwagon riders is unfortunately short-sighted.  I understand the temptation to feel this way, as a 30+ year fan myself who hoped we'd finish near last this year just to dump off those types of "fans."  But a fan-base is not simply those who can afford to go the games or those who choose to spend their free-time doing so.  Sometimes the best of us choose to not attend just to enjoy the beauty of the game without the influx of idiocy that hangs over the insincere.  

Michael10
Michael10

@AlainLapointe Roger Clemens never threw a no-hitter; neither did half the pitchers in the Hall of Fame. However, Cardinals rookie Bud Smith threw a 134 pitch no-hitter after only 13 games in the majors. He was out of baseball 13 games later.

For what it's worth...