Tim Lincecum Rumors

Tim Lincecum Undergoes Season-Ending Hip Surgery

Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum underwent season-ending hip surgery this morning, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Giants GM Bobby Evans said Thursday in a KNBR radio appearance that Lincecum is out for the season, though he did not definitively mention Lincecum’s surgical procedure (hat tip: Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle). Said Evans:

“He won’t be able to come back this season. That’s evident. He went to Colorado to see a specialist and get a second opinion and get an evaluation with the prospect that he will have surgery. The next step for him is to do everything he can and get back and get well, but it’s going to take him out for the season. What that leads to in terms of his progression healthwise will dictate what opportunities he has with us or elsewhere.”

As Schulman notes, the injury may very well bring to a close Lincecum’s historic career as a member of the Giants.

Selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Lincecum debuted in 2007 as a hard-throwing 23-year-old, tossing 146 1/3 innings of 4.00 ERA ball and averaging better than a strikeout per inning with initially shaky control. The control woes quickly dissipated, however, as Lincecum won consecutive Cy Young Awards in his next two seasons. From 2008-11, there were few pitchers in the game that were decisively better than “The Freak,” whose unorthodox delivery and dominant results won the hearts of Giants fans. Over that four-year stretch, Lincecum posted a 2.81 ERA with 10.0 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 in 881 2/3 innings, earning All-Star honors each year.

Since that time, though, Lincecum’s career has gone in the opposite direction. He’s lost the mid-90s fastball that he had in his early to mid-20s, and he averaged just 87.2 mph on his vastly diminished heater this year. Lincecum inked a two-year, $35MM extension after the 2013 season despite marginal bottom-line results (sabermetric stats pegged him in a more optimistic light), but he hasn’t lived up to that deal. In the end, he’ll have pitched just 232 innings with a 4.54 ERA to show for it under that contract.

Schulman writes that Lincecum “surely will not get a Major League deal” from the Giants this offseason, and if that’s the case, it does seem likely that his days with San Francisco are coming to a close. Barring an exorbitant recovery timetable from this operation, it’s tough to imagine that no team would give Lincecum a big league deal, his lack of recent results notwithstanding.

Heyman wrote earlier this week that Lincecum was seeing renowned hip specialist Marc Philippon in Vail, Colo. Per Heyman’s report, surgery would most likely have Lincecum ready in time for Spring Training, and there’s a belief among some doctors that the dip in velocity is partially tied to his hip troubles.

Quick Hits: Arrieta, Lincecum, Pirates

Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta threw his first career no-hitter tonight, shutting down the Dodgers on 12 strikeouts and just two runners allowed (one via walk, one via error).  By coincidence, Charlie Wilmoth looked at Arrieta’s case as an extension candidate earlier today on MLBTR to see what it might take for Chicago to lock the ace up over the long term and whether or not an extension makes sense for either side at this time.  Needless to say, Arrieta’s stock only continues to rise after performances like tonight’s history-making gem.  Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Tim Lincecum is still experiencing discomfort in his hips and back and there’s a chance he might not pitch again in 2015, Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports.  Since Lincecum is a free agent this winter, it could also mean the end of his Giants tenure.
  • The Pirates aren’t planning to call up Tyler Glasnow for the September stretch run, GM Neal Huntington told reporters (including Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review).  Glasnow, one of the game’s most highly-regarded pitching prospects, has an 0.81 ERA and 10.5 K/9 over 33 1/3 Triple-A innings this season, albeit with 17 walks as well.
  • Also from Sawchik’s notebook piece, A.J. Burnett said he was pain-free after throwing five simulated innings on Sunday.  The veteran has spent a month on the DL with a flexor strain in his throwing elbow, though he is now aiming to return for a mid-September series against the Cubs.
  • Indians assistant GM Mike Chernoff has been rumored as a candidate to become the Tribe’s general manager if Chris Antonetti is promoted to replace Mark Shapiro as president, though Fangraphs’ David Laurila notes that “Chernoff is a hot commodity” around baseball.  If Chernoff is offered multiple jobs, Laurila wonders if he would prefer running a team with more payroll flexibility than small-market Cleveland.
  • Also from Laurila’s piece, he wonders if the Angels are disappointed enough with their season that Mike Scioscia’s job could also be in jeopardy.  It has been assumed that Scioscia is safe given his close ties with owner Arte Moreno, not to mention the fact that the manager is still owed $18MM through the 2018 season.

Injury Notes: Upton, Aoki, Lincecum, Stanton, Crawford, Morneau, Morrow

Padres outfielder Justin Upton sat out today’s game with left oblique tightness, but remains hopeful that he’ll avoid a DL stint, MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports. Needless to say, it’s not a great time for the injury to crop up: the team is perhaps taking a final shot at re-entering the postseason hunt before the deadline. And if it can’t, the pending free agent may be one of the most important players marketed this summer. Assistant GM Josh Stein said that Upton will likely miss “a couple of days,” but any absence beyond that may be rather concerning.

Here are some more injury notes from around the league:

  • The Giants expect to welcome back outfielder Nori Aoki in relatively short order, as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports. That’s certainly good news for San Francisco, as a successful return of Aoki (joining Hunter Pence in that regard) would reduce or even eliminate the team’s need to add an outfielder at the deadline.
  • Meanwhile, Giants starter Tim Lincecum has been out with an arm injury, but manager Bruce Bochy revealed today that he’s also received treatment for “degenerative” hip issues, as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports. The problem, which is not considered to be a threat to his career, has existed since late last year. Lincecum received cortisone shots and is set to resume throwing in a few days, but as Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News wrote earlier today, it’s far from clear whether he’ll ever again impact the Giants staff.
  • Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton is preparing to resume swinging, though his timeframe remains unclear, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. While that’s great news for anyone who enjoys the game of baseball, Stanton obviously will not return in time to impact the team’s deadline plans.
  • Spencer provides several other updates on injured Marlins: Righty Jarred Cosart, who was acquired on deadline day last summer has again been diagnosed with vertigo. And fellow starter Henderson Alvarez has struggled quite a bit as he tries to work back from shoulder inflammation on a rehab stint.
  • The Dodgers will welcome back outfielder Carl Crawford from the 60-day DL, as Carlos Collazo writes for MLB.com. A right oblique injury has shelved him for quite some time, and it looks like he’ll be headed for a bench role upon his return. Fellow highly-paid corner outfielder Andre Ethier has played well this year, leaving Crawford without an obvious spot in the regular lineup. It remains to be seen whether the always-active Dodgers will look to move either player (or one of the team’s numerous other options) over the coming weeks.
  • Rockies first baseman Justin Morneau says that he still hopes to make it back to the team this year, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. The veteran has managed to resume baseball activities as he seeks to work back from a concussion and neck sprain, and says the latter is a larger concern than the former. Certainly, it’s good to hear that Morneau’s long battle with concussion issues is not the primary cause for his long absence, and he adds that he has no plans to retire at this point. Morneau once looked like a possible trade candidate, though that ship has probably sailed. It remains to be seen how things will progress on his contract, which includes a $9MM mutual option ($750K club buyout) for next season.
  • The Padres appear set to send righty Brandon Morrow out on a rehab assignment as soon as this weekend, Beth Maiman of MLB.com reports. It will obviously be hard for San Diego to rely on much of a contribution from the 30-year-old in spite of that promising development, as he has dealt with various arm issues for much of his career. Morrow, who was added on a cheap, one-year deal, threw 33 innings of 2.73 ERA ball earlier in the season.

West Notes: A’s, Kazmir, Machi, Ibanez

The Athletics are in a “holding pattern” on trade talks as they continue to see how things progress in the coming weeks, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Nevertheless, likely buyers appear to be taking a close look at Oakland’s roster, as Rosenthal counts the Blue Jays, Astros, Royals, Tigers, Nationals, and Pirates among the clubs that sent scouts to last night’s game.

  • Scott Kazmir threw for the A’s last night, of course, and left after just three innings of work with forearm tightness. Kazmir insisted after the game that it was not a major source of concern, and indeed Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle notes on Twitter that he was able to play catch today without apparent issue.
  • Giants reliever Jean Machi appears at risk of becoming a roster casualty when the club welcomes back Jeremy Affeldt and/or Tim Lincecum, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle notes on Twitter. The 33-year-old has produced outstanding results in each of the last two seasons, putting up 119 1/3 innings of 2.49 ERA pitching. But it’s been a different story in 2015, as Machi has suffered a notable decline in his strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.8 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9, presently) and owns a 5.29 ERA in 32 1/3 frames.
  • The Rangers got a bargain on recent international signee Andy Ibanez, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America. Texas landed the 22-year-old infielder for just $1.6MM, but Badler pegs him as roughly equivalent in value to a supplemental first-round or second-round draft pick.

Quick Hits: International Spending, Giants, Cubans

Remember when the Padres, Red Sox, and White Sox were the most improved teams in the majors? They, along with the Marlins, are below .500 despite their busy offseasons, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. Alternatively, the Blue Jays have pushed into playoff contention with a recent winning streak. Toronto added Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin over the offseason, but the core of the team has remained largely intact. Kepner notes that these quick turnaround rebuilds are no guarantee for solid performance.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • A new international signing period will begin on July 2nd, but 2016 is the time for your favorite team to break the bank, per Ben Badler of Baseball America. The Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Angels, and Diamondbacks are already unable to spend more than $300K on a player for the next two seasons. The Dodgers, Cubs, Royals, Phillies, and Blue Jays may blow past their bonus limit in the 2015 signing period. That will remove many of the most active teams from the market in 2016. Badler gives a complete description of the international market conditions. It’s well worth a read.
  • The Giants will soon face a roster crunch in their rotation, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com. Jake Peavy is medically ready to return, and Matt Cain is nearing readiness. The easiest move would be to option Chris Heston, but he’s tied for the club lead with seven wins and recently no-hit the Mets. Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Hudson have been merely serviceable. The same can be said of Tim Lincecum in recent weeks. With the exception of Heston, the other rotation arms could be lost if they’re designated for assignment. The club could opt to move Lincecum and Vogelsong into the bullpen, but that just pushes the roster crunch elsewhere.
  • An influx of Cuban players could soon flood the majors, writes Bill Shaiken of the Los Angeles Times. Cuban players, even those who fall under international spending restrictions, are currently able to negotiate with all 30 clubs. That increases their bargaining power. It’s a big reason why infielder Roberto Baldoquin cost about four times more than the Angels’ entire 2015 amateur draft class. Cubans are currently the third most represented foreign nation in the majors. Opening day rosters included 18 Cubans, 65 Venezuelans, and 83 Dominicans. Cuba has a comparable population to the Dominican Republic. As such, we could see a surge of Cuban players as diplomatic relations continue to thaw.

NL West Notes: Lincecum, Petit, Colon, D’Backs, Rockies

The Giants are weighing whether or not to continue with beleaguered right-hander Tim Lincecum in their rotation, writes John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. Lincecum himself offered a frank, expletive-laced assessment of his recent performance and sounded aware that he may not make his next start. Shea spoke with manager Bruce Bochy about rotation candidate Yusmeiro Petit‘s struggles as a starter and excellence in the bullpen this year, with Bochy calling Petit’s rotation work too small of sample to judge. Petit’s recent bullpen work, however, has been nothing short of incredible, if not historic. He’s retired 38 consecutive batters, striking out 16. As Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com points out (on Twitter), Petit is seven batters shy of matching the Major League record for most consecutive hitters retired. Lincecum, who is in the first season of a two-year, $35MM extension, has a 9.49 ERA over his past six starts and has totaled just 24 2/3 innings in that time. Baggarly tweets that for now, the team’s Thursday starter is listed as “TBA.”

Here’s more from the NL West…

  • While the most commonly linked team to Bartolo Colon (who is currently on revocable waivers) has been the Angels, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his daily blog that the injury-plagued Dodgers are a candidate to place a claim as well (ESPN Insider required). Olney points out that Colon’s start against the Dodgers tonight could serve as an audition.
  • Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa feels that his team can post a winning record in 2015, he tells Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. La Russa feels that the D’Backs can make improvements with their current roster solely by improving their approach at the plate and improving their baserunning, but he also cites the desire to make “two or three impactful moves” in the offseason, including the addition of at least one hitter and at least one pitcher.
  • Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic writes that the D’Backs are in evaluation mode with middle infielders Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius, and Nick Ahmed. Additionally, the club is trying to determine how to mix in veterans Aaron Hill and Cliff Pennington. For the time being, GM Kevin Towers tells Buchanan that Owings will see more time at second base with Gregorius getting a look at short, but that doesn’t mean Owings is being converted to a second baseman full-time. Hill, meanwhile, will see action at third, though a full-time transition there would block prospect Jake Lamb, Buchanan notes. In my view, Pennington is a non-tender candidate following the season and Ahmed could use more work at Triple-A, leaving three infielders for two spots. Hill is guaranteed $12MM in 2015 and again in 2016, making him difficult to trade, but any number of clubs would likely be interested in Owings, Gregorius or Ahmed in trades.
  • The Rockies are further away from contending now than they were at the beginning of the season, opines Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Saunders looks at Colorado’s pitching predicament, noting that Tyler Chatwood will miss the 2015 season due to Tommy John surgery and Jhoulys Chacin‘s shoulder cannot be relied upon. Brett Anderson‘s injuries make it difficult to exercise his $12MM option, and Jorge De La Rosa could end up pitching elsewhere, as several sources with whom Saunders has conversed feel that there’s only a 50-50 chance he returns. Add in the persistent trade rumors regarding Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez — Saunders feels the latter is more likely to go — and the offseason is rife with question marks and uncertainty.

Quick Hits: Upton, Martin, Giants, Astros

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported over the weekend that the Braves explored a trade prior to the deadline that would’ve sent B.J. Upton and a starting pitcher elsewhere.  David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) has another detail on this scuttled trade, saying that the Braves would’ve taken on “a contract [the] other team [was] looking to shed.”  It sounds like it would’ve essentially been a swap of one bad contract (the roughly $50MM owed to Upton through 2017) for another, though if Atlanta was willing to move a starter as well, the other contract was likely for a shorter term.  It’ll be interesting to see if the identities of the mystery team and mystery player are revealed in the coming weeks or months but until then, let the guessing game begin!

Here’s some more from around the baseball world…

  • Russell Martin‘s plan to take a short-term contract and rebuild his value for a richer, longer-term deal seems to have paid off, MLB.com’s Tom Singer and Stephen Pianovich write.  Martin has a .743 OPS over his two seasons with the Pirates and is hitting .290/.417/.391 over 308 PA this year, which makes him easily the most attractive catcher available in this winter’s free agent market.  Martin says he loves playing in Pittsburgh, though Singer/Pianovich note that the Bucs are unlikely to be able to afford his asking price and prospect Tony Sanchez is waiting in the wings.
  • The 2015 Giants could be improved by moving Buster Posey to third base and Tim Lincecum to the bullpen, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News opines.  Lincecum’s value as a starter is diminishing but (as the 2012 postseason indicated) he could be a dominant force as a reliever or closer.  If Pablo Sandoval leaves in free agency, Kawakami argues that Posey could slide to third in order to help him stay healthy and perhaps lead to more production at the plate.  Posey already plays a lot of first base and Kawakami doesn’t mention another possibility I think the Giants could consider, which is trading Brandon Belt.
  • Speaking of next year’s Giants team, CSNBayArea.com’s Andrew Baggarly points out that at least $125MM is already committed to a roster that still has a big hole to address at second base and five key free agents (Sandoval, Michael Morse, Sergio Romo, Ryan Vogelsong, Jake Peavy) to re-sign or replace.  With payroll stretched so thin both this season and next, Baggarly says the team simply doesn’t have the resources to explore replacing struggling players like Lincecum or Brandon Crawford.
  • The Astros could return to respectability by adding a few veteran players in an attempt to follow the model of the 2003 Tigers, Grantland’s Jonah Keri opines.  Those Tigers responded to an infamous 119-loss season by signing veteran free agents over the next few years, who mixed well with a young core and led the team to an AL pennant by 2006.

NL West Links: Rockies, League, Lincecum, Giants

Earlier tonight, Jeff Todd recapped and analyzed the Padres' winter moves in the latest entry of the MLBTR Offseason In Review series.  Jeff has also covered the Giants and Diamondbacks thus far in the OIR series.  Here's some more from around the NL West…

  • "There has been buzz" that the Phillies and Tigers are interested in the Rockies' extra outfielders, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes.  Even if Colorado uses a center field platoon of one of Corey Dickerson or Charlie Blackmon (both left-handed hitters) and one of Drew Stubbs or Brandon Barnes (both righty batters), that still leaves a surplus.  Detroit could use a left-handed hitting outfielder to replace the injured Andy Dirks, though the Tigers aren't yet sure if they'll look outside the organization to make such a move.
  • Could the Dodgers cut Brandon LeagueSteve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times doesn't quite think the club is ready to take that step given the $17MM remaining on League's contract through 2015.  That deal looks worse and worse for L.A. given how League struggled in 2013 and during this year's Spring Training, while the Dodgers have a number of impressive young bullpen arms who might be relegated to Triple-A.
  • Tim Lincecum dicusses his pitching evolution with Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, noting that though he has lost a few miles off his fastball, he is working to become a better overall pitcher as he ages.
  • Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com discusses the Giants' roster and other topics during a Giants-centric chat with readers.

Giants Notes: Sabean, Belt, Lincecum

The Giants have a number of interesting young pitching prospects in their farm system and the time may soon come when the club considers trading from this surplus, MLB.com's Chris Haft writes as part of a reader mailbag piece.  That time, however, isn't happening soon since many of these young arms are a long way from being finished products.  Of the nine names mentioned by a reader, Haft thinks "the Giants can consider themselves fortunate if two or three of these young pitchers become productive starters for them."  Haft also discusses the Giants' bench depth, Francisco Peguero's departure, the possibility of a Vernon Wells signing and other topics in response to reader questions.

Here's some more news out of San Francisco…

  • Giants GM Brian Sabean told reporters (including Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle) that he doesn't have the "flexibility" to add another free agent starter to the rotation mix.  Sabean said he is fine with his current starting five but noted that while he likes his depth options beyond the rotation, "I can’t tell you we have that confidence yet" until they see them pitch in Spring Training.
  • Sabean also thinks the team will reach an agreement with Brandon Belt before the two sides have to go to an arbitration hearing.  The Giants offered Belt $2.05MM for 2014 while the first baseman asked for $3.6MM, and Belt recently said he wouldn't be offended if the case does end up going to an arbiter.
  • Tim Lincecum told reporters (including an Associated Press writer) that when the Giants' season ended, he didn't think he'd be returning to San Francisco.  As it turned out, Lincecum didn't even get a chance to test the open market as the Giants re-signed him to a two-year, $35MM deal before the World Series ended.

Poll: The Lincecum Extension

In the wake of Tim Lincecum's recent re-up with the Giants, I took a look back (using MLBTR's Extension Tracker) to see if there were any comparable starting pitching extensions agreed upon during post-season play. There were: each of the last four offseasons has seen one (and only one) rotation member sign a new deal with his club during the month of October. Though the Yankees' massive extension of C.C. Sabathia is not really comparable, the other two deals are. Rather than just asking for an up-or-down vote on the Lincecum deal, I thought it might be more interesting to approach the question in a bit of historical context.

In 2010, the Dodgers decided to hand Ted Lilly a three-year, $33MM deal. In doing so, Los Angeles kept Lilly from reaching the market as a probable Type-A free agent, which might have suppressed his value and would have allowed the club to recoup two draft picks if he signed elsewhere. And in 2012, the White Sox gave Jake Peavy a two-year, $29MM deal, including a club option for 2015 that could have vested (but will not) to become a player option. In so doing, Chicago also agreed to pay Peavy a deferred $4MM buyout on the $22MM option the club already held on him. Of course, the Sox could also have decided to make Peavy a qualifying offer — at essentially the same average annual value they promised him for two years — to keep his price down in free agency and deliver a first-round draft choice if he went elsewhere. 

Of course, we now know how those two deals turned out for the clubs signing them. Lilly was solid, if unspectacular, in 2011, putting up a 3.97 ERA in 192 2/3 innings. He was off to a nice start over his first 48 1/3 innings in 2012 when he was knocked out of commission by a shoulder injury. He was ineffective in just 23 big league innings this season, and ultimately returned less than 2 WAR over the life of the contract. Meanwhile, Peavy fell well short of his outstanding 2012 season in the first year of his new deal, ultimately throwing 144 2/3 innings of 4.17 ERA baseball, good for 2.4 fWAR and 1.5 rWAR. He was reasonably effective, but hardly dominant, for a sputtering White Sox squad before suffering a broken rib that endangered his status as a trade deadline target. Nevertheless, his pre-deadline return enabled the South Siders to flip Peavy to the Red Sox and return prospect Avisail Garcia (and others), while shedding the remainder of his salary.

Much as with Lilly and Peavy, Lincecum signed his new contract before his present club could make him a qualifying offer that would have limited his free agent prospects. Indeed, the San Francisco front office sought to justify Lincecum's price tag in part by noting that he would have received about the same amount had he accepted consecutive qualifying offers this year and next. 

Ultimately, the Lilly and Peavy deals show two possible outcomes for Lincecum's own contract. Though Lincecum is somewhat younger than the other two, he has nearly as many innings on his arm as they did. Injury or ineffectiveness could render the deal a major waste of resources. Or the Freak could pitch well enough for other teams to view the remainder of his contract as a valuable commodity. (Even if his no-trade clause would present a significant barrier to an actual deal.) Which outcome seems more likely at this point?