On Tuesday, Tim Lincecum and the Giants came to an agreement on what he’ll be paid over the next two seasons before he has the opportunity to become a free agent. That agreement came in at a hefty $40.5 million:
The Giants had sought to buy out at least a couple of Lincecum’s free-agent years, but the right-hander’s camp had little interest in fouling up what almost certainly will be a gargantuan contract on the open market. Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, proposed an eight-year structure. The Giants reportedly offered Lincecum $100 million over five years, which was turned down.
So, why is Lincecum so reluctant to sign a long-term deal with the Giants? I have three theories, which I will present in the order which I believe is most likely.
1) He wants to make as much money as possible and does not believe he will ever get hurt. Pretty simple. Most of us spend our lives trying to maximize our income at work, so why should an athlete be any different? Some people seem to forget that when they rush to call a player “disloyal and greedy.”
Also, why would he believe he’ll ever get hurt? His dad firmly believes that the way a modern pitcher–a pitcher like Matt Cain–throws a baseball is ludicrous. His father believes that 99 percent of professional pitchers are more likely to injure their arms than Lincecum. Don’t discount the fact that his dad has been pumping that notion into his brain since the time he was a very young boy. Timmy doesn’t even bother icing his arm.
2) Lincecum desperately wants to some day be in the Hall of Fame. Pitchers who have a lot of wins make it to Coooperstown. Pitchers who start for teams that don’t score runs don’t get wins. The Giants don’t score runs… Do I need to continue? I mean, Lincecum showed up nine times in Bill James‘ Grantland article on the 100 best pitching duels of 2011.
3) Lincecum simply wants to go home to Seattle, where he’d be beloved by his hometown, and he’d be near his parents and the condo he bought in downtown Seattle. This is my least likely scenario, but I don’t find it to be completely implausible either.
If we’re poised to bring Matt Cain into the conversation, I think it goes without saying that he’d be the easier of the two to retain. Just feels that way. Still, there’s just one thought in my mind that I’ve been considering a lot lately.
Lincecum is still small. He was small in high school when he was blowing hitters away in Bellevue, WA. He was small when he went to UW and broke the Pac-10 strikeout record. He was small in 2006 when the Giants were lucky enough to get him as the number-10 pick in the MLB draft. People said he’d get hurt, and then he won back-to-back Cy Young awards in the National League.
Still, the stigma that has followed him since amateur baseball: he’s too small to handle 200 innings in the major leagues, so he’ll eventually break down–still follows him today. I suspect that stigma will continue to follow him into free agency. I suspect that it will weigh heavily on the minds of each and every team that considers paying millions of dollars for him. How many more innings and pitches can Tiny Tim make?
And maybe, just maybe, that question will sneak into the minds of other front offices just enough that the Giants can find a way to pay him what it will take to keep him in The City. Just maybe.
My last question is whether or not the Giants can retain both Lincecum and Cain. More importantly, perhaps, do they even want to retain both? That’s a whole lot of stock and risk to put into two players, and we all saw how the Barry Zito deal turned out–though, granted, I do realize how ill-advised the deal was given Zito’s trends and stats at the time.
What I am saying is that it’s entirely possible that they’d prefer to retain one and make their decision by considering the value they think they might bring to the field with one or the other–and value from a marketing standpoint, specifically in ‘The Freak’s’ case. They would then, of course, measure that against the price tag to retain each player.
When you start to think about these questions, it then important to think about what Baggs mentioned about Lincecum’s camp–which promptly turned down five years and $100 million–and Cain’s (also from Baggarly):
…So next the Giants will turn their attention to extending Matt Cain, with club sources expressing confidence that a contract resembling Jered Weaver’s five-year, $85 million extension with the Angels would be acceptable to both parties.
Call me crazy, but I rather like the structure of a five-year deal for 27-year-old Matt Cain at a list price of $85 million, especially when I consider the fact that, according to Fangraphs–a website that purely underrates him–he’s been worth $86.3 million over the past five years. Considering inflation and the fact that he’s likely to spend the majority of that contract still in his prime, I’ll take that deal every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
My heart says I want both Cain and Lincecum to play for the Giants forever, that they’ll someday both retire the same year and five years later enter the Coop as best pals, each wearing a Giants cap. But my brain says it might be better to pick one or the other and hope for the best.
Either way, meaning whether they keep Cain and Lincecum or just Cain or just Lincecum, I just hope the Giants make the right decision. And, again, my heart wants the right decision to be to retain both. I don’t ever want to see Lincecum–or Cain–in a Yankees cap.
(Should anyone feel the need to blame someone for the picture, make it me, but please also know that Chris Quick did the Photoshop editing.)