After sitting out the 2017 season, right-hander Tim Lincecum is working out with the trainers at Driveline Baseball and will showcase for interested teams “in the near future,” per an announcement from Driveline (on Twitter). Intrigue around Lincecum picked up earlier today when fellow Driveline client Adam Ottavino posted a picture of Lincecum on Instagram.
Lincecum looks to be in excellent physical condition, though it’s certainly best to temper expectations regarding his ability to contribute on the field. Lincecum didn’t pitch in the Majors, minors or in any other professional capacity in 2017, and his 2016 run with the Angels following 2015 hip surgery was an unmitigated disaster.
In Lincecum’s last run through MLB, he logged a 9.16 ERA with 7.5 K/9, 5.4 BB/9 and a staggering 2.58 HR/9 through 38 1/3 innings with the Halos. His average fastball in that time was just 87.7 mph — nearly seven full miles per hour off he 94.2 mph that he averaged as a 23-year-old rookie one decade ago.
Yahoo’s Jeff Passan tweets that Lincecum is “throwing hard again,” though he didn’t put a specific number on the two-time NL Cy Young winner’s velocity at present. Restored velocity, of course, could be a huge boon for Lincecum, who’ll turn 34 next June. Lincecum established himself as one of the game’s most dominant pitchers quickly after debuting and held that status from 2008-11 before beginning to decline in 2012. Perhaps not surprisingly, the first significant drop-off in performance for Lincecum came when his average fastball plummeted from 92.3 mph in 2011 to 90.4 mph in 2012.
Lincecum figures to be of some degree of interest to most clubs, as there’d be little reason not to at least have a scout or two watch a workout to see if there’s any indications of a potential return to form. It’d be unrealistic to hope for his 2008-09 dominance (2.55 ERA, 10.5 K/9, back-to-back Cy Young Awards), but a rejuvenated Lincecum could conceivably contribute to a big league rotation all the same.
Presumably, he’ll field predominantly minor league offers, though it’s possible that he drums up enough interest to secure a 40-man roster spot with a low base salary and a healthy pile of incentives based on appearances and/or innings pitched. By the time Opening Day rolls around, it will have been six full seasons since “The Freak” was an above-average contributor in a Major League rotation, though recent resurgences from the likes of Scott Kazmir and Rich Hill (among others) serve as reminders that it’s virtually never too late to rule out a comeback — especially for a player that won’t turn 34 until next summer.