Tim Lincecum Rumors
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?
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).
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).
The 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 Tanaka, Ervin 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.
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.
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).
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.
The Giants have talked with two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum about a new contract, but he won't sign before he finds out what he can get on the open market. Lincecum won't do anything until five days after the World Series, when he can solicit offers on the open market, sources tell Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com.
The Giants presented a two-year deal to The Freak, but talks haven’t progressed since then. The Giants plan on making the right-hander the qualifying offer of one-year, ~$14MM if they can't change Lincecum's mind and get something done before the end of the World Series, setting themselves up for draft pick compensation if he bolts. Baggarly speculates that Lincecum, a Seattle native, might be curious to see what level of interest the Mariners will have in him. The M's, whose first-round pick is protected, had a scout following Lincecum and the Giants over the club’s last homestand.
San Francisco took care of one of their top stars earlier this month when they re-signed Hunter Pence to a five-year, $90MM deal. Yesterday, I previewed the offseason ahead for the Giants, including the Lincecum situation.
SUNDAY: Giants Vice President and Assistant General Manager Bobby Evans told reporters at the news conference announcing Hunter Pence's extension the team wants to re-sign Lincecum. "We've begun those discussions and hopefully there’s an opportunity to bring Timmy back and in short order," Evans said (as quoted by Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com). "That's our hope. We don't intend to wait if Timmy's willing to work with us right now. And that's the impression I'm getting -- that they're willing to work with us."
Lincecum may be willing, but he isn't in a hurry to work out a new deal. "I've still got time to think about this," said Lincecum last night. "It's not a pressing thing for me, and I'll make a decision when the time comes."
SATURDAY: The Giants locked up Hunter Pence earlier today, but they're not done just yet. With the outfielder taken care of, the Giants are now discussing a new deal with pitcher Tim Lincecum, a source tells Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter). As the MLBTR Agency Database shows, both players are represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
Lincecum's value obviously isn't where it once was, but he has helped his stock this season with an improved performance over his 2012 effort. So far in 2013, the 29-year-old has posted a 4.37 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 versus a 5.18 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 last season. Meanwhile, his FIP (3.73), xFIP (3.56), and SIERA (3.75) are all better than his 2013 ERA as well as his 2012 marks.
While The Freak hasn't quite regained his Cy Young form, he has certainly shown that he can be a contributor for the Giants or any club going forward. A recent MLBTR poll pitting Lincecum against Ubaldo Jimenez showed that most readers would prefer the San Francisco notable over the Indians hurler this winter.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
Tim Lincecum could be making his last start with the Giants tonight and he tells John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he would like to remain a Giant but is open to other options. "I've always said I'd like to see the relationship go further. But until I know what's on the table, I can't really dismiss anything else. I try to take advice from my agent and do something that's going to make me happy as well," Lincecum said. He also noted that he is open to pitching anywhere, be it away from the west coast or in a warmer climate. Lincecum has an edge over at least one other notable free agent hurler, as over 62% of MLBTR readers polled would prefer to sign Lincecum over Ubaldo Jimenez.
Here are some more news items from baseball's California squads...
- Speaking of last starts with the Giants, Barry Zito pitched five innings of two-run ball on Wednesday to earn a win in what was very likely his final outing in the orange-and-black. The veteran southpaw told reporters (including MLB.com's Chris Haft) that his time in San Francisco was "95 percent great and the other 5 percent terrible," and Zito was widely praised by his teammates. Zito posted a 4.62 ERA after signing a seven-year, $126MM deal with the Giants that is widely regarded as one of the worst contracts in baseball history. At age 35, Zito says he has "no idea" if he'll try to continue his career next season, saying a decision will come later.
- Athletics owner Lew Wolff discussed how the A's have (again) rebuilt themselves into contenders, how he works with general manager Billy Beane, and the Oakland stadium situation as part of a wide-ranging interview with MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom.
- Mark Ellis' excellent second base glove and his veteran leadership have made him an underrated part of the Dodgers' success, ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon writes. Ellis turned 36 in June and has a .264/.317/.343 batting line in 466 PA, so it's questionable if the Dodgers will exercise their $5.75MM team option on Ellis for 2014. Whether L.A. keeps him or not, Ellis said he intends to play next season.
- Earlier tonight, we collected a batch of Angels-related notes.
For today's installment of MLBTR's Free Agent Faceoff series, we'll look at a couple of former aces, both 29-year-old righties, whose careers have followed a similar trajectory over the last few years: Tim Lincecum and Ubaldo Jimenez.
These guys were once expected to headline this year's free agent class. Over the 2009-10 seasons, Lincecum (11.7 fWAR) and Jimenez (12.1 fWAR) were among the ten most productive pitchers in the game. In 2011, they took a step back but were still solid: looking past their divergent ERA figures (2.74 for Lincecum; 4.68 for Jimenez), both posted fWAR tallies in the mid-3's. Last year, the wheels fell off. The two combined for just one win above replacement.
The 2013 season has seen partial resurrections for both pitchers. Certainly, neither will hit the market as an ace. But both bring high strikeout rates and durability to the table. Since 2008, neither hurler has failed to make at least thirty starts. Of course, that statistic also implies mileage: Lincecum has logged over 1400, and Jimenez just shy of 1300, career innings. But these one-time stars should generate a lot of interest in a pitching market largely bereft of top-level talent. Let's take a closer look:
At first glance, Lincecum's 2013 season looks like a marginal improvement on 2012, and in some ways it is: he is carrying just a 4.44 ERA in 190 2/3 innings, and his strikeouts are down (though so are his walks). On the other hand, Lincecum's year looks much better in the eyes of advanced metrics: his FIP (3.77), xFIP (3.57), and SIERA (3.75) are all better than his 2013 ERA as well as his 2012 marks. Broadly, Lincecum seems to have figured out how to be successful -- albeit not dominant -- with less overwhelming stuff. As Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com writes, Lincecum is a more mature pitcher now.
Though Lincecum's fastball velocity dipped in 2010, it took a more remarkable downturn between 2011 (92.2 MPH) and 2012 (90.4 MPH). Not coincidentally, perhaps, his offspeed offerings (slider, curve, change up) all registered negative pitch values last year. Lincecum's change, in particular, went from being his best pitch to his worst, as he was seemingly unable or unwilling to pound the zone low-and-away with the offering. He has apparently re-learned how to use his slow ball in 2013, to improved results. Though Lincecum no longer looks like a top-tier pitcher, he proved this season that he can still dial it up at times (as in his no-hitter) and, perhaps more importantly, that he should be a reliable rotation piece.
Likewise, Jimenez entered the year with real questions about whether or not he would continue to be a guy that a team felt comfortable trotting out every fifth day. As with Lincecum, he has in large part answered those questions. MLBTR's Steve Adams just profiled Jimenez, who is likely to exercise his right to void the $8MM club option that the Indians hold on him for 2014. As Adams noted, Jimenez has produced excellent results at the right time: he sports a 2.72 ERA and 2.31 K:BB ratio over his last 145 2/3 innings, and has restored his ground-ball rate to his career levels. Though advanced metrics do not quite support his cumulative 3.39 ERA on the year, neither do they undermine his usefulness: Jimenez sports a 3.62 FIP, 3.77 xFIP, and 3.88 SIERA.
Even moreso than Lincecum, Jimenez has dealt with a drastic velocity decline. His fastball, which once sat at 96, dropped to a 93.9 MPH average in 2011 and then fell off a table last year to 92.5 MPH. In reponse to his poor results in 2012, Jimenez made adjustments to his repertoire. He has continued to increase the usage of his change-up ever since his speed started to dip, and now throws it 20.2% of the time. More importantly, perhaps, Jimenez has largely abandoned his curve (3.7%) for his slider (22.3%), a big swing from his previous pitch mix. While I cannot make a full case for causation, the slider has the highest pitch value of any of Jimenez's offerings in 2013. Whatever the reason, Jimenez has restored his ability to generate swings and misses (8.8% SwStr% in 2013 vs. 7.0% in 2012), reduced his home run tendencies (0.85 vs. 1.27 HR/9), and restored his K:BB ratio to his prime levels (2.29 vs. 1.51 K:BB) while carrying a career-best 9.23 K/9.
Lincecum and Jimenez both have approximately the same age and arm mileage, and have posted similar underlying skill metrics in 2013. The Giants star has had greater highs and less-pronounced lows in his career than his counterpart in Cleveland, but in 2013 Jimenez actually increased his strikeout capabilities and outpaced Lincecum in fWAR (2.6 vs. 1.5). So, which one would you prefer your team target?