Tim Lincecum is still a Giant.
On Tuesday, the Giants announced that they had reached a two-year/$35 million deal with the right-hander. It came as a surprise to many since Lincecum recently said that he’d test the free agent market following the completion of the 2013 World Series. So when a deal was obviously reached before then, it received mixed reviews.
To many Giants fans, it was a huge relief. Big Time Timmy Jim is a beloved athlete in San Francisco. The two-time Cy Young Award Winner, two-time World Series Champion, and thrower of a no-hitter is a fan favorite. His quirky personality and style combined with the fact that he was drafted a Giant and came up through the farm system has endeared him to the city.
But many weren’t as excited about the Freaky Franchise returning to the mound at AT&T Park. The biggest cause for concern seems to be money, and many believe that the Giants overpaid to make sure Lincecum remained in San Francisco. He’ll be making $17 million in 2014 and $18 million in ’15 and a no-trade clause is part of his new deal.
Did San Francisco make a mistake in bringing back Lincecum for so much money?
In a word, no. To lock him up before he went out and tested the free agent market was going to cost Brian Sabean a little bit more. Lincecum also took a cut from 2013, in which he made $22 million. He was listed as the fourth-best starting pitcher in this upcoming free agent market (behind Ervin Santata, Matt Garza, and Ubaldo Jimenez), and it’s very likely that he would’ve gotten $15-17 million from any number of teams. For the Giants to reach this deal before free agency officially started, they were going to have to pay a little bit more.
Headed into the offseason, San Francisco was desperate for starting pitchers. They’re starting staff finished with 4.37 ERA, third-highest in the National League. The Giants have Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner locked up for several more years but that left three question marks at the back-end of the rotation. Barry Zito’s option will not be picked up, and it remains to be seen what Sabean will do with Ryan Vogelsong. Before re-signing Lincecum, the black-and-orange were left with two starting pitchers for 2014. Bringing back Timmy was a no-brainer, and slightly overpaying for him is not a big deal considering how much he was needed.
And while he has struggled in the past two years after dominating the league in the first four years of his career, Lincecum has proved that he can shine when he needs to. Despite finishing 2012 with the highest ERA among qualifying starters, he rebounded in 2013, dropping his ERA from 5.18 to 4.37. Part of his 2013 numbers were skewed by a rough May in which he went 1-4 with a 6.37 ERA. Yes, his strikeout numbers have decreased since 2011, but he K’ed 190 in 2012 and 193 in 2013. He also threw a no-hitter on July 13 against the San Diego Padres, striking out 13 and walking four.
And who can forget his unbelievable run out of the bullpen in the 2012 World Series. He threw 17.2 innings with a 2.55 ERA, including a 0.69 ERA in the World Series. Even though he’s lost velocity on his fastball, he’s working on his other pitches, including a pretty nasty slider and curveball. If he can further develop his finesse pitches, the 29-year-old Lincecum could return to his dominant form.
Two years is also the perfect contract length. Minor leaguers Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Mike Kickham, and Chris Stratton are probably a couple years away from being ready for the majors. The Lincecum signing allows Sabean and the Giants enough time to let these prospects develop and make their Major-League debuts when they’re fully ready.
Regardless of the mixed reviews, most fans of the black-and-orange are thrilled that Big Time Timmy Jim will be a Giant for at least the next two seasons. During his final start of 2012, signs dotted the AT&T Park stands declaring, “Don’t leave, Timmy!”
On Tuesday, those fans got their wish.