MAY 19: Lincecum is taking a physical for the Angels today and, if and when he passes, his deal with the team will be complete, reports Passan (Twitter link). Lincecum will head to the minors to build up endurance, per Passan, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds that the expectation is that he’ll need about 25 days to do so (links to Twitter). Also, per Sherman, the deal will not be official for another 48 to 72 hours, which aligns well with the fact that he’s getting his medical work done now.
MAY 18: The sides are still moving toward a deal, but likely won’t finalize things today, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (Twitter link).
MAY 17, 3:46pm: The two sides are indeed moving closer to a deal, but they’re “still working through a few issues” and the deal isn’t quite finished, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.
2:39pm: Right-hander Tim Lincecum is “leaning toward” signing with the Angels and could wrap up a deal today, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Meanwhile, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the two sides are “closing in” on a deal, adding that the White Sox and Giants are out of the mix (links to Twitter). Passan adds that the dollars remain unknown, but the deal being discussed is a Major League pact. Lincecum is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
Lincecum, 32 in a month, underwent season-ending hip surgery early last September and spent the offseason recovering from the procedure. Initial reports pegged his first showcase for teams in late January to early February, but the audition was ultimately pushed back until early May. More than 20 clubs were said to have watched Lincecum throw back on May 6, though the three clubs listed by Passan above were the primary clubs said to have interest. ESPN’s Eric Longenhagen wrote following the showcase that Lincecum sat in the upper 80s to low 90s with his fastball and displaying a slider that looked above-average at times, a “generally average” curveball and a more inconsistent changeup.
Whether Lincecum can succeed as a starter in the Majors following the operation remains to be seen. While he was, of course, one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball shortly after his arrival on the scene in the Majors (back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008-09 and a 2.81 ERA in 881 2/3 innings from 2008-11), his production has deteriorated since his velocity began to drop off in 2012. Since that time, Lincecum has a 4.68 ERA in 615 2/3 innings of work, and his most recent big league action, last season, came with a fastball that averaged 87.2 mph in his 76 1/3 innings of work. Lincecum did have a very successful 2011 season sitting at about 92 mph with his fastball, so he doesn’t necessarily need the heater that averaged 94+ mph when he first broke into the Majors in order to succeed. However, the upper 80s and low 90s have been where he’s struggled for much of the past four seasons, so it’d be nice for the Halos if the velocity he showed at his audition continued to tick upward as he gets into game action.
Lincecum was said to be throwing about 90 pitches per outing in simulated games, though I’d imagine that he’ll still require some time in the minor leagues to re-acclimate with a game setting at the professional level. His preference all along has seemingly been to return to a rotation, and of the listed clubs, the injury-ravaged Angels present the clearest opportunity for him to do just that. The Angels have lost ace Garrett Richards to a significant elbow issue, while left-hander Andrew Heaney is on the DL indefinitely and is said to have some damage to his own UCL. Fellow left-hander C.J. Wilson has yet to pitch in 2016 and isn’t expected back for another month or so, and former ace Jered Weaver is sporting a 6.10 ERA with a fastball that is averaging just north of 82 mph this season. Meanwhile, rehabbing southpaw Tyler Skaggs has seen his return from Tommy John surgery slowed by other arm difficulties and hasn’t been pitching in game settings recently.
Suffice it to say, the Halos could use all the rotation depth they can get. A trade for Jhoulys Chacin last week helped to address the need to some extent, but with what figures to be a fairly reasonable price tag and an enormously attractive pedigree, Lincecum makes sense for the Angels as an upside play. Even in the event that he simply pitches more like a capable fourth starter than the ace he once was, Lincecum would be a dramatic improvement to the club’s rotation picture. And, if he continues to exhibit the same struggles he’s had in recent seasons, it’ll be easier for the Halos to move on than it would have been for a club like the Giants, with whom Lincecum has a storied history that could make a split between the two sides difficult from a public relations standpoiint.