TUESDAY: Lincecum has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. That means Lincecum will continue his career with the Salt Lake Bees, hoping to eventually get another shot in the Majors. As a former MLB star, that likely means Lincecum is swallowing his pride, but he also likely believes that heading to Triple-A provides his clearest path back to the big leagues at this point.
SATURDAY: The Angels have designated right-hander Tim Lincecum for assignment, reports Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link). The club’s hope is that Lincecum will stay in the organization and accept an assignment to Triple-A Salt Lake, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. Indeed, the Angels are under the impression Lincecum will head to Salt Lake, per Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). In the meantime, Los Angeles has recalled righty Jose Valdez to take Lincecum’s roster spot.
Lincecum joined the pitching-needy Angels as a free agent in May after undergoing hip surgery and then showcasing himself around the majors in somewhat ballyhooed fashion, but his stint with the organization has been a disaster. In possibly his final start of the season, Lincecum surrendered six earned runs on nine hits, two walks and a strikeout in 3 1/3 innings of a 6-4 loss to the Mariners on Friday. That outing increased Lincecum’s ERA to a hideous 9.16 through nine starts, and manager Mike Scioscia was wary of committing to him afterward. Lincecum averaged just over four frames in those nine outings and recorded only one quality start, which came in his June 18 season debut.
A lofty walk rate (5.4 per nine innings) and a decrease in ground balls (40.7 percent rate, down from his career 46.4 percent mark), the latter of which helps to explain his unmanageable 22.9 percent home run-fly ball ratio, are largely behind Lincecum’s run prevention issues. So is a .432 batting average on balls in play, though FanGraphs indicates that Lincecum has been quite susceptible to hard contact, and the 32-year-old’s high-80s fastball velocity hasn’t helped his cause.
Struggles aren’t necessarily anything new for Lincecum, who posted a subpar 4.68 ERA in 615 1/3 innings with the Giants from 2012-15 as his mean fastball velo fell from the low- to mid-90s to the upper 80s. However, he did manage an impressive K/9 (8.4), a playable BB/9 (3.9) and a 45.9 percent grounder rate. Still, the version of Lincecum everyone has seen since 2012 is a far cry from his heyday, in which he was a dominant member of the Giants’ rotation from 2008-11 and took home a pair of National League Cy Young Awards.
The fact that Lincecum wasn’t able to hold a rotation spot, let alone a place on the roster, for an Angels team without fellow starters Garrett Richards, C.J. Wilson, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano – all of whom are on the disabled list – obviously bodes poorly for his future. Barring a significant turnaround this year, his days as a starter could be over. Fortunately for the Angels, they only invested a prorated $2.5MM in Linceum upon signing him.