Tim Lincecum Rumors

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?

Giants Notes: Lincecum, Evans, Lopez, Sandoval

The Giants officially announced their extension with Tim Lincecum today and it was the club's early willingness to get a deal done that helped convince the two-time Cy Young Award winner to stay.  “When they made the push it was hard for me not to respond,” Lincecum said during a conference call with reporters (including The San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman). “The relationship kept pushing until it found us sitting here at two years, $35 million, and I’m really, really, really happy about that.”  The righty also noted that his struggles over the last two seasons served as some motivation to remain in San Francisco, as "that’s not the way you want to go out."

Here are some more items from AT&T Park…

  • Lincecum said that he would consider returning to play for his hometown Mariners near the end of his career but "wasn’t ready for that kind of jump" at this point.
  • Giants president Larry Baer denied that Lincecum was only re-signed for his marketability and popularity with San Francisco fans. "Everybody on the baseball side who was evaluating it said this was the right thing for the Giants to keep the rotation strong and keep the team’s chances of winning strong, with all he’s capable of doing and all he’s done over the years," Baer said.
  • Even after re-signing Lincecum and Hunter Pence, assistant GM Bobby Evans said the Giants still have enough "flexibility" to look at "outside options to solidify the rotation."  Evans did say it would be "problematic" for the club to pursue qualifying offer-rejecting free agents since the Giants have an unprotected first-round draft pick.
  • Evans wasn't sure if the team would also be able to re-sign southpaw Javier Lopez before he tests the free agent market (hat tip to CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly).  Lopez is coming off the best season of his 11-year career, having posted a 1.83 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and 3.08 K:BB rate in 39 1/3 IP in 2013.
  • "The industry is going nuts" over the Lincecum extension, ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required) but the deal is "such an outlier" that Olney doesn't think it will heavily impact the rest of the free agent pitching market.
  • It's no surprise that Pablo Sandoval's name that been floated in trade rumors, MLB.com's Chris Haft writes.  Sandoval will hit free agency after the 2014 season and the Giants have questions about the Panda's consistency at the plate and his physical conditioning.  Haft opines that Sandoval would draw a lot of attention on the trade market and he could be dealt for starting pitching or perhaps a second baseman (as Marco Scutaro would take over at third base).

Giants Re-Sign Tim Lincecum

The Giants have re-signed right-hander Tim Lincecum to a two-year contract, which will keep the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner from reaching free agency.  The club officially announced the deal today after Lincecum passed a physical.  As shown in the MLBTR Agency Database, Lincecum is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.

Financial terms weren't officially disclosed but the contract is believed to be worth $35MM and Lincecum will recieve full no-trade protection, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links).  The deal will pay Lincecum $17MM in 2014 and $18MM in 2015, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com (Twitter link).  

LincecumThe Giants took care of their top offseason priority earlier this month when they agreed to a five-year, $90MM extension with outfielder Hunter Pence and priority No. 2 is now crossed off of the list as well.  San Francisco allegedly offered The Freak a two-year pact earlier this month and he turned it down, but it was presumably so that he could secure more money, not a longer deal.  If the Giants didn't get a deal done with Lincecum during the exclusive window, they almost certainly would have extended him a one-year, $14MM qualifying offer to guarantee either a return to SF or draft pick compensation.

While Lincecum hasn't regained his Cy Young form, he has bounced back nicely in 2013 after a rough 2012 campaign.  The 29-year-old posted a 4.37 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 2013, a marked improvement over his 5.18 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 2012.  The advanced metrics are promising too – his FIP (3.73), xFIP (3.56), and SIERA (3.75) are all better than his 2013 ERA as well as his 2012 marks.

Other free agent hurlers could be licking their lips after watching Lincecum take in an average annual value of $17.5MM.  This year's free agent class is headlined by the likes of Japanese sensation Masahiro TanakaErvin Santana, Matt Garza, A.J. Burnett, Hiroki Kuroda, and Ubaldo Jimenez

Had Lincecum hit the open market, he figured to garner a great deal of interest given the lack of quality starting pitching available.  Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik & Co. might be a little disappointed by this evening's news as they had scouts monitoring Lincecum's starts towards the final stretch of the season. The four-time All-Star is a native of Seattle.

Zach Links contributed to this post.  Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NL Notes: Marlins, Marrero, Lincecum

Despite a 100-loss season in 2013 and the departure of president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, Marlins president David Samson says the team will not lose 100 games again in 2014, Christina De Nicola of FOX Sports Florida reports. "I promise you this: We're not going to lose 100 games next year. Not close," says Samson, who also praises Michael Hill, who was promoted to president of baseball operations after Beinfest's departure, and new GM Dan Jennings. "Mike Hill and Dan Jennings are really tremendous heads of baseball organizations, and they're going to work really well together to help us win," Samson says. Here are more notes from around the National League.

  • The Nationals just outrighted former first-round pick Chris Marrero, but at least one scout believes he still has potential, writes the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore (on Twitter). "I would not give up on Marrero. He can still hit. Just needs the right opportunity with right team, preferably in AL," the scout says. Marrero hit .270/.331/.402 for Triple-A Syracuse this season.
  • The Giants had a number of reasons for giving Tim Lincecum a two-year, $35MM contract this week, assistant GM Bobby Evans tells the New York Post's Joel Sherman. The Giants thought Lincecum would have a number of suitors on the free agent market, perhaps including the Mets and Yankees. Also, with Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain as the only sure things in their 2014 rotation, the Giants did not want to have to piece together three-fifths of a rotation this offseason. Finally, the Giants feel that Lincecum's upside would have been hard to replace elsewhere on the free agent market.

Reactions To The Tim Lincecum Deal

The Giants didn't want to risk losing Tim Lincecum in free agency and tonight, they gave the 29-year-old a lucrative two-year, $35MM deal.  The deal isn't just a financial windfall for The Freak, it could mean higher paydays for several of this winter's top free agent starters.  Here's a look at some of the reactions to the agreement..

  • The two-year, $35MM deal could really boost the total price tag for Japanese standout Masahiro Tanaka, tweets Ben Badler of Baseball America.  Tanaka is considered by some to be the best available starter on the open market this offseason.
  • The deal is also good news for Ubaldo Jimenez, notes MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (via Twitter).  Jimenez is another free agent pitcher who reached great heights and had his fair share of struggles but managed to rebound in his walk year.  The right-hander posted a 3.30 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 182 2/3 innings for Cleveland this year.
  • If you're going by the advanced numbers, it's possible that bad luck contributed a full run to Lincecum's ERA over the last two seasons, writes Rob Neyer of SBNation.  If that's the case, then the 29-year-old could be worth the two-year, $35MM price tag.  While Neyer is a big believer in sabermetrics, he's less than confident that this deal will work out for GM Brian Sabean.
  • Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Sulia link) isn't exaclty sure how to feel about the deal, but he has a reality check for fans who have panned the deal as an overpayment.  San Francisco's rotation would have been in rough shape sans Lincecum and beyond that, teams are flush with cash this winter thanks to increased TV revenues.
  • Lincecum's 4.76 ERA and drop in fastball velocity from 92.2 to 90.2 mph makes the deal a head-scratcher in the view of ESPN.com's Buster Olney (via Twitter).

Quick Hits: McCann, Lincecum, Red Sox, Scherzer

Brian McCann's foray into free agency is well-timed, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes. The Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Cubs and Angels could all have interest in him, perhaps along with the Blue Jays and White Sox. The fact that big-market teams like the Red Sox (whose primary catcher, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, is also a free agent) and Yankees might be on the lookout for a catcher could drive McCann's price sky-high. Here are more notes from around the Majors.

  • Tim Lincecum did indeed decline a two-year deal to remain with the Giants, but Heyman says that doesn't mean Lincecum is looking for a longer contract. Instead, Lincecum was seeking a one- or two-year deal with the Giants, seemingly hoping to recover his earlier, Cy Young-caliber form before heading back out on the free-agent market. The Mariners, Dodgers and Angels could all have interest in Lincecum, Heyman writes. 
  • The Red Sox' run to the World Series has been stressful and exciting for its front office, writes MLB.com's Ian Browne. "Those of us in the front office, we're kind of just along for the ride at this point," says GM Ben Cherington. "When the games start, we're rooting so hard, we're fans, and every pitch is like an event. So some parts of the games are hard to watch. We enjoy grand slams and the last three outs when Koji [Uehara] is on the mound. That's about it."
  • It's unclear what the Tigers will do with Max Scherzer this offseason, the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes. Scherzer can become a free agent after 2014, and many executives for other teams believe the Tigers will shop him. Others believe, though, that the Tigers will simply pretend they might trade Scherzer in order to get Scherzer to encourage his agent, Scott Boras, to negotiate a long-term deal.