Tim Lincecum Rumors

Tigers, Others Interested In Lincecum As A Reliever

Several teams, including the Tigers, have interest in acquiring Tim Lincecum from the Giants but as a relief pitcher instead of a starter, FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reports.  Lincecum has only made one regular season relief appearance in his seven-year Major League career, but he allowed just one run over 13 relief innings during the Giants' postseason run last October.  Though Lincecum returned to the San Francisco rotation this year, Morosi notes that he may eventually be tabbed for a bullpen role in the future.

The Tigers have been looking for an answer at closer all season, and while Joaquin Benoit has pitched well in the role as of late, Lincecum could be a game-changing addition at the back of the Detroit bullpen (or, Benoit could remain as closer as Lincecum could simply be used for other important relief situations).  It would be a somewhat difficult trade to negotiate for the Tigers or any team that wished to use Lincecum out of the pen, given that the Giants would likely still be looking for a return befitting that of a solid starting pitcher. 

As Morosi writes, the Giants may want to keep Lincecum given that they're still on the outskirts of the NL West race.  The World Series champs might be loath to deal Lincecum given that they're already known to be looking for starting pitching help and recently came up short in a bid to acquire Ricky Nolasco.  On the other hand, Lincecum is a free agent this winter and is owed $10.2MM for the remainder of the 2013 season, so if the Giants decided to become sellers, moving Lincecum's salary would be a key move as the club reloads for 2014.

I wrote back in February that Lincecum's upcoming free agency made this a make or break year for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, and to this point, Lincecum has showed signs that his disappointing 2012 campaign may have been an aberration.  Lincecum has a posted a 9.71 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 over 19 starts, the best of which was a no-hitter against the Padres on Saturday.  Lincecum has been hurt by some bad luck in the form of a .312 BABIP and 67.4% strand rate — his advanced metrics (3.34 FIP, 3.25 xFIP, 3.54 SIERA) indicate that his 4.26 ERA should be lower.  As I recently noted on MLBTR's sister fantasy site Roto Authority, Lincecum was a good buy-low candidate for your fantasy league, though the no-hitter has likely upped his value.


NL Notes: Wheeler, Mets, Lincecum, Puig

The Mets are trying to find the right spot for top prospect Zack Wheeler (#7 by MLB.com, #11 by Baseball America, and #13 by ESPN's Keith Law - Insider subscription required and recommended), to make his MLB debut and are carefully monitoring the Super Two arbitration cutoff, which they believe will come after June 8, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma writes the Mets are sensitive to putting Wheeler in an optimum position to succeed in his debut with a strong preference for that to come in the series with the Cubs on June 14-16, instead of against the NL Central leading Cardinals in the previous series. The Mets front office is also wary of Wheeler, a native of Dallas, GA, making his debut against the Braves in Atlanta because of the belief the right-hander will have enough jitters pitching in the majors for the first time and won't need the added pressure of pitching in front of a large contingent from his hometown. Manager Terry Collins, meanwhile, isn't concerning himself with rumors of Wheeler's call up. "I've got enough on my plate right now," Collins told reporters including Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. "I can't keep track of everybody in the organization all the time. Certainly, I know how he pitched. We all keep saying, 'He's on the way, he's on the way, he's on the way,' but he'll pitch his way here. When that time is, I have no idea." In other news coming from the National League:

  • The Mets, in the wake of being swept by the Marlins (owners of the worst record in baseball), need to contemplate whether they want to be 100-loss team with prospects gaining experience or vets annoying fans, opines ESPNNewYork's Adam Rubin on Twitter. 
  • Tim Lincecum, ranked seventh on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, told Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com he is committed to being a starting pitcher but is open to the idea of becoming a closer. "I’m always open. It’s just, right now I don’t want to be open to it," Lincecum said. "I’m sure if my career takes that turn, I’m definitely open to changes, especially if it’s beneficial to the team I’m playing for." Baggarly noted Lincecum chose his words carefully when he said "the team I’m playing for." A club source told Baggarly the Giants would turn Lincecum into a late-inning reliever "in a heartbeat," if they had another starting pitcher in the system ready to take his place in the rotation. 
  • The Dodgers are awaiting an update on Carl Crawford's left hamstring injury before deciding whether to bring up top prospect Yasiel Puig (#47 by Baseball America and #70 by MLB.com); but, it would be an upset if the outfielder isn't playing for them tomorrow, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter links). Shaikin also noted on Twitter that Puig, owner of a .313/.383/.599 slash line this season, was not in the lineup for Double-A Chattanooga for the second consecutive game.

NL Notes: Mets, Lincecum, Cardinals, Upton

Let's start the last weekend in April with some notes from the National League:

  • As expected, offseason acquisition Shaun Marcum has been activated to make his first start for the Mets today, the team announced via Twitter. In a corresponding move, the team optioned 26-year-old lefty Josh Edgin to the minors, where he will try to sort out his poor start to the year. The Mets hope that Marcum, who came to New York on a one-year, $4MM deal, can stabilize the back of the team's rotation. While Matt Harvey has been lights out and Jon Niese has been solid, the remaining Mets starters have combined to allow well over five earned runs per nine innings.
  • Even with the mixed results from the team's starting staff, the Mets have gotten off to a fairly promising start. Meanwhile, the Nationals and Phillies have failed to live up to expectations in the early going. While acknowledging it is a long shot, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post looks at what it would take for the Mets to seize any opening should the Nats and Phils continue to underperform. Many variables would have to break right for the Mets, says Davidoff. The club must hold things together and hope that Travis d'Arnaud and Zack Wheeler arrive mid-summer, ready to contribute. (Of course, the d'Arnaud side of this already looks unlikely given his approximately two-month injury timetable.) If that happens, the Mets will face a test of their asserted willingness to take on salary — and/or even deal young talent — to make a run at a postseason appearance.
  • In the midst of what MLBTR's Mark Polishuk calls a make or break year, Giants starter Tim Lincecum has put together two consecutive quality starts. As Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com writes, last night Lincecum struck out nine Padres over seven innings, allowing just two runs. Lincecum, who currently stands ninth in Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, had struggled mightily in his first three outings. While he still ranks among baseball's worst in BB/9 (5.16), Lincecum has raised his strikeout rate to 9.71 K/9.
  • The Cardinals are not currently looking outside the organization to supplement their bullpen, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. While the club waits to learn the fate of injured closer Jason Motte, it has been rewarded for handing larger roles to Edward Mujica and Joe Kelly. GM John Mozeliak says that, while he is open to looking at the trade market, "that would not be in the near future."
  • Morosi also addressed the subject of Braves outfielder Justin Upton, wondering why exactly the Diamondbacks decided to trade him. While Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick publicly called Upton "an enigma," and manager Kirk Gibson purportedly did not see eye-to-eye with the young slugger, Morosi says there was no single moment that apparently caused a rift. In case you missed it, Upton is off to something of a solid start for his new ballclub.


NL West Links: Quentin, Weiss, Upton, Giants

Everyone knows Jackie Robinson's story but few remember the name of John Wright, the second African-American player to sign with the Dodgers just weeks after Robinson signed his contract.  Baseball America's Ryan Whirty details the brief career of Wright, a right-hander who struggled in the minors in 1946 and was back pitching in the Negro Leagues by 1947.

Here's the latest from the NL West…

  • Major League Baseball has announced the suspensions of Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin for eight games and Dodgers utilityman Jerry Hairston for one game for their parts in Thursday's brawl between the two teams.  Both men are appealing their suspensions, so both could be able to play when the Padres and Dodgers begin a three-game series on Monday, though Yahoo's Jeff Passan (Twitter link) feels MLB and the MLBPA will arrange for Quentin to miss Monday's game.
  • Zack Greinke, meanwhile, will be out of action for around eight weeks following surgery to fix his broken collarbone.  MLBTR's Steve Adams looked at the implications of Greinke's injury earlier today.
  • Rockies owner Dick Monfort talks to Mark Kiszla over the Denver Post about manager Walt Weiss' unusual one-year contract with the club.  Monfort admits the short-term deal was an "oversight" since he values loyalty in employees and usually operates on handshake agreements, and also said that the Rockies management team hired Weiss without first establishing his salary.
  • Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall told Arizona Sports 620 Radio's Doug & Wolf that he felt the Justin Upton trade has worked out for both the D'Backs and Braves.  "I would agree that ‘would he have had the same success here that he's had [in Atlanta] to start off the season, maybe not' sometimes players need a change of scenery for it to happen," Hall said.  "I mean this was just two different teams that had two different needs and it worked out well for both, not to mention we still have four prospects that we're going to be dealing with in the next few years."
  • Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic doesn't agree with Hall's belief that Upton needed a fresh start.  "But even if [Upton] did need a new environment, what happened to the environment here? What does that say about the environment you’re creating if a 25-year-old with his kind of ability can’t succeed in it anymore?" Piecoro asks.
  • While breaking down Tim Lincecum's struggles, Grantland's Jonah Keri noted that the success of the Giants' starting rotation has obscured the team's lack of pitching depth.  The Giants may need to explore a trade for a new starter later this season if Lincecum can't turn things around.  I tabbed 2013 as a Make Or Break Season for Lincecum since he'll need to regain his old form in order to fetch a nice free agent contract this winter.
  • In other NL West news from earlier today, I compiled a set of Padres notes while Steve Adams reviewed the Giants' offseason moves.

Make Or Break Year: Tim Lincecum

Critics have long believed that Tim Lincecum's unconventional mechanics wouldn't stand the test of time in the Major Leagues, but the Giants right-hander could retire tomorrow having more than proved his worth.  Lincecum has two NL Cy Young Awards and two World Series titles to go along with his career 3.31 ERA, 9.8 K/9 rate and three NL strikeout crowns over just six seasons in the bigs.

Though Lincecum ended the year with another championship ring, he spent his postseason in the unfamiliar position of relief pitcher.  Lincecum was relegated to the bullpen following a troubling 2012 season that saw him post a 5.18 ERA, 4.4 BB/9 rate and 1.1 HR/9 rate (all career worsts), plus a league-leading 17 wild pitches and 107 earned runs allowed. Uspw_6695582

While Lincecum had a few very rough patches during the 2010 and 2011 campaigns, nobody expected him to completely lose his form.  The advanced metrics paint a less-grim picture of his 2012 performance (Lincecum posted a 4.18 FIP, 3.82 xFIP, 3.97 SIERA) but he also lost almost two miles off his fastball.  Lincecum dropped to career-low average speed of 90.4 mph, down from 92.2 mph in 2011.

Lincecum looked sharp out of the bullpen during the postseason and, combined with those decent advanced metric numbers, there is some reason to believe that he can bounce back and become "the Freak" once again in 2013.  If he doesn't, however, he will leave millions of dollars on the table in free agency, as Lincecum is set to hit the open market next winter. 

Lincecum resisted signing a long-term extension with San Francisco, opting instead to take shorter contracts that he said kept him more focused.  The tactic didn't cost Lincecum in the short term, as he signed a pair of two-year deals with the Giants that covered his four arbitration-eligible years (Lincecum was a Super Two) and earned $63.5MM over the 2010-13 seasons. Lincecum reportedly turned down a five-year, $100MM extension from the Giants last winter, a move that he could regret if he struggles against in 2013 and faces a drastically lowered price tag in free agency.

If nothing else, Lincecum's poor 2012 cost him a chance at a mega-deal akin to the contracts signed by Felix Hernandez ($175MM), Zack Greinke ($147MM) or Cole Hamels ($144MM) within the last year.  Even a vintage Lincecum season wouldn't earn him quite as much as the $112.5MM extension teammate Matt Cain signed with the Giants last April.  Though Lincecum will be just 29 years old by season's end, those persistent whispers about his durability will surface again and keep him from cashing in to his fullest extent, perhaps even keeping him under $100MM in guaranteed money.

Still, a ceiling of "under $100MM" is nothing to sneeze at, so Lincecum can regain a lot of value with another big year.  A repeat of 2012, however, would put Lincecum in line for a short-term deal whether he liked it or not.  His track record would only get him so far, and Lincecum would likely have to settle for an incentive-filled one- or two-year contract (or maybe two years plus an option). 

There's also the chance the Giants could make Lincecum a qualifying offer if he has another poor season.  Such a one-year pact would be worth between $13.5-$14MM and make sense for both sides — Lincecum would get another chance to prove himself in a familiar environment and the Giants would see if they could salvage a final good season from their former ace at a relative bargain price.  Even if Lincecum rebounded and subsequently left after 2014, the Giants would now be in position to reap draft pick compensation for Lincecum if he turned down another qualifying offer and signed elsewhere.  That would get the Giants something for a Lincecum departure, aside from some relief that he passed on that big extension.

The 2013-14 offseason could be something of a transformative one for the Giants, as they'll have around $56MM coming off the books due to the expiring contracts of Lincecum, Barry Zito and Hunter Pence.  Some of that money could be spent on extensions for Buster Posey or Pablo Sandoval, or GM Brian Sabean could look to make a splash in the free agent market.  Lincecum has been a huge part of the Giants' recent past, and his 2013 season will likely determine if he is part of the team's future.

Photo courtesy of Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports Images


Giants Could Re-Sign Lincecum

Tim Lincecum struggled often in 2012, but the Giants haven’t given up on him long-term, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links). In fact, the prospect of re-signing Lincecum next offseason, when he’s eligible for free agency for the first time, figured into some of the Giants’ budgetary decisions this year.

Lincecum will hit free agency after earning $22MM in 2013. The 28-year-old has two Cy Young Awards and two World Series titles on his resume, but he struggled throughout the 2012 regular season, posting a 5.18 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and a 45.9% ground ball rate in 186 innings. Lincecum, a client of Beverly Hills Sports Council, led the league in wild pitches and earned runs during the regular season before contributing out of the bullpen during the Giants' World Series run. His average fastball velocity dipped to a career low 90.4 mph during the regular season.


Quick Hits: Verlander, Hamilton, Rangers, Lincecum

It’s not a huge surprise, but Tigers president and General Manager Dave Dombrowski said that he would like to make Justin Verlander a Tiger for life, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  The right-hander still has two years remaining on his five-year, $80MM deal and extending him won’t be cheap.  However, the Tigers made a similar move when they inked Miguel Cabrera to his eight-year, $152.3MM deal two years before he was set to hit the open market.  Here’s more from around baseball as the Giants celebrate their Game 2 victory..

  • People familiar with the Brewers‘ thinking told Heyman that the club is seriously considering a run at Josh Hamilton this winter.  Owner Mark Attanasio declined comment on the possibility, but the team is said to believe that Milwaukee is a viable market for the slugger.  The Brewers would obviously have a hard time competing with major market teams for Hamilton, but it helps that the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers likely won’t be in the mix.
  • Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels said that he sees some similarities between what his club did in 2007 and the Red Sox‘s blockbuster deal this year, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com.  Texas traded star first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Braves in the summer of 2007, netting the club Elvis Andrus and freedom to build the roster.  Daniels, who was a guest on WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove show, also said that he doesn’t expect to trade Andrus or Kinsler despite having Jurickson Profar close to being major league-ready.
  • Despite his struggles in 2012, General Manager Brian Sabean ruled out the possibility of Tim Lincecum moving to the bullpen next season, tweets Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.  Lincecum is entering his walk year in the 2013 season and will earn $22MM.
  • One person connected to the Giants told Heyman that there’s no way that Lincecum will be traded, in part because of how the fans in San Francisco respond to him.
  • Commissioner Bud Selig told reporters before tonight’s game that he has spoken with Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and has yet to hear a complaint from the organization regarding possible tampering with manager John Farrell, tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.

Assessing Early Returns On Recent Giants Extensions

No MLB team finalized more extensions this offseason than the Giants, who locked up five of their top players. General manager Brian Sabean committed more than $200MM in future salaries in the four-month period from the beginning of January to the beginning of April. The extensions promised to solidify the team’s rotation long-term and cap the future earnings of a pair of arbitration eligible All-Stars. 

For the most part, the extensions have worked for the team. Tim Lincecum's disappointing season is the largest blemish on an otherwise encouraging set of contracts for San Francisco. 

Matt Cain - Giants (PW)

Lincecum, whose early-career accomplishments assured him of a substantial raise, signed a two-year, $40.5MM contract extension to cover his final two arbitration years. Though he has pitched better lately, his ERA sits at 5.30 in what has been the most disappointing season of his MLB career. It’d be understandable if the Giants are relieved Lincecum didn’t accept their $100MM extension offer before the season. In that context, $40.5MM isn’t so expensive. Still, if the team had gone year to year with Lincecum, he wouldn’t have been locked in for a $22MM salary in 2013; a non-tender would have been possible.

Three other Giants starters have exceeded expectations since signing multiyear deals. Vogelsong, who signed a two-year, $8.3MM contract in January, is repeating last year's success. He has a 2.85 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 on his way toward a career high in innings pitched. Vogelsong would have been a free agent after the 2012 season if the Giants hadn't locked him up. They'll surely be glad to have him back for just $5MM in 2013 (the extension also includes a 2014 club option).

Like Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner has replicated his 2011 success. The 23-year-old left-hander has inserted himself into the NL Cy Young Award race by posting a 2.83 ERA with five times as many strikeouts as walks in 171 2/3 innings this year. He obtained a record deal for pitchers with one-plus years of MLB service (five-years, $35MM), so it’s not as though Bumgarner obtained anything less than full value back in April. But this deal could hardly be going better for the Giants.

Matt Cain also obtained a record-setting contract this spring. He obtained a five-year, $112.5MM contract that established a record for right-handed pitchers. He's earning Cy Young Award consideration again after pitching a perfect game and posting a 2.83 ERA in 174 2/3 innings. If Cain had reached the free agent market this offseason, he would be the most sought-after pitcher available. The Giants could have re-signed him, of course, but not without spending considerably more than they did in April.

Lastly, Pablo Sandoval's play has justified his new three-year, $17.15MM contract — at least when he's been on the field. Although he spent time on the disabled list with a strained hamstring and a fractured hamate bone, he does have an .821 OPS in 294 plate appearances. This extension had limited upside for the Giants in the first place, since it didn’t buy out any free agent years or include any club options.

For now the Giants are presumably focused on maintaining their division lead over the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. A few months from now, once the most chaotic part of the offseason has ended, Sabean and the rest of the San Francisco front office will encounter a familiar challenge: it'll be time to consider extensions for a new set of players led by All-Star catcher Buster Posey.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


NL West Notes: Lincecum, Bauer, Rockies

The Dodgers, who have averaged 85 wins per year in six seasons under GM Ned Colletti, are on pace for 97 wins despite their poor showing against the Athletics this week. Here are the latest NL West links…

  • Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that he intends to make some changes to his pitching approach "It's almost like I'm pitching backwards now," he said. "Like I'm a wuss thrower. I've got to start utilizing my fastball." Nightengale discussed the differences between this version of Lincecum and the two-time Cy Young Award winner in a detailed piece. "It's hard to believe it's the same guy,” one scout said.
  • The Diamondbacks are "in no rush" to promote Trevor Bauer, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic notes. Bauer visited with some Diamondbacks officials yesterday to familiarize himself with the organization. But the team is “not trying to clone people here” GM  Kevin Towers said in reference to Bauer’s quirks.
  • Rockies manager Jim Tracy told Jake Kaplan of MLB.com that it's hard to get a read on the effectiveness of the team's four-man rotation so early on. “What we've seen the first two days is real similar to what I've been dealing with an awful lot this season," Tracy said.
  • Dave Cameron of FanGraphs proposed an alternate method of managing a pitching staff earlier in the week, in case you missed it.

Quick Hits: Draft, Sizemore, Royals, CBA, Greinke

Some links from around MLB…

  • ESPN's Keith Law posted a list of the top 100 prospects in this year's amateur draft. High school outfielder Byron Buxton and high school shortstop Carlos Correa top the list.
  • "I love this game and I don't see myself calling it quits anytime soon," said Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian (Twitter link). Sizemore is currently on the DL with a back issue, the latest problem in a long line of injuries in recent years.
  • Royals owner David Glass says he hasn't spoken to anyone about selling his team despite rumors to the contrary, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. "I've not talked to anyone, nor has any of my family talked to anyone," he said.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America explains how teams and player representatives are working to side-step the international spending restrictions imposed under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement. MLB is aware of the loopholes and would object more strongly to some than others.
  • Recent extensions talks haven’t taken place for Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels or Tim Lincecum, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Greinke and Hamels are eligible for free agency this offseason, while Lincecum is under team control through 2013.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports points out that Edinson Volquez of the Padres looks like a trade candidate (Twitter link). However, six of the right-hander’s seven starts have been at Petco Park, a generally forgiving environment for pitchers.\

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.