COMMENTARY | Is Tim Lincecum worthy of a multi-year contract?
That's just one question the San Francisco Giants will face once their incredibly disappointing 2013 season is over, but it's a big one.
Lincecum, a free agent this winter, is arguably still the most popular Giant on the team. He's been one of the best pitchers in the team's history and one of the top players its system has produced. He still has something left in the tank, as evidenced by his no-hitter last month and the overall quality of his work this season.
So should the Giants do whatever it takes to bring Lincecum back next season? Or should they let him sign elsewhere and invest their money in another player?
Lincecum infamously turned down the Giants' five-year, $100+ million contract extension offer early in 2012 and signed a two-year, $40.5 million deal instead. It's reasonable to assume Lincecum was banking on performing well over those two years and securing an even bigger deal when he hit free agency; instead, Lincecum struggled through his worst regular season in '12 and hasn't looked anything like the pitcher who once won back-to-back Cy Young Awards.
The likelihood of Lincecum getting a $100 million offer this time around is slim, and, if that's what he's after, the Giants should definitely walk away. But if his demands aren't crazy, the Giants should seriously consider bringing Lincecum back in 2014.
The Giants' starting rotation has two pitchers under contract next year: Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Ryan Vogelsong has a team option for $6.5 million that the Giants will likely pick up, so it'd be safe to pencil him in as another starter. Barry Zito's time with the Giants is almost assuredly over after this season, and, with Lincecum a free agent, that leaves the Giants with two rotation holes to fill. There won't be much help to be had on the free-agent market, and most of (if not all of) the guys who'll be available aren't better than Lincecum anyway.
And forget about finding help through the farm system: The Giants' best pitching prospects are still a few years away from being big-league ready, and the pitchers they've brought up to make spot starts this season haven't impressed. The Giants will be behind the eight ball when it comes to starting pitching next year.
It makes sense, then, for the Giants to offer Lincecum a new contract once the season ends and he hits free agency. Lincecum has preferred shorter contracts in the past, but his struggles over the past few seasons may have convinced him to seek longer-term security. If the Giants offered him a deal of two to three years with a slightly smaller salary hit than the $20.25 he's making now, it'd be a win for both sides.
The Giants would lock up one of their franchise icons for another few years while also easing their offseason burden of finding viable starting pitching. Lincecum would get a multi-year deal on the shorter end of things, still be one of the most highly compensated pitchers in the game, and he'd still be relatively young when the contract ended and he hit free agency again. Plus, he'd still be pitching in front of fans that love him and he wouldn't carry the burden of pitching for a new team and trying to live up to a new contract.
The Giants and Tim Lincecum make too much sense together. If the terms are reasonable, the Giants should make every effort to bring him back in 2014.
Dave Tobener is a San Francisco Bay-Area based writer whose work covering the Giants has appeared on Yahoo! Sports and Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew. Follow him on Twitter @gggiants.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tim Lincecum
- San Francisco Giants