Tim Lincecum to the Oakland A’s? A Trade that Will Never Happen, but Should…

It’s one of those moves you just know will never happen. And it’s not just a singular reason for why it wouldn’t happen. It’s not even a matter of the teams not matching up that would prevent it from happening. The motives for failing to even consider such a deal go down to the business level, marketing, and probably a thousand other passing thoughts that would prevent it from ever even reaching an internal discussion, let alone coming to fruition.

But from a pure baseball standpoint, Tim Lincecum to the Oakland A’s makes a lot of sense.

Let’s start with the Oakland side of the argument. Lincecum is a shorter commitment than their primary trade target, Jake Peavy. With free agency looming at the end of this season, they can simply let Timmy walk if he does not help them get to a World Series. By the way, in case you’ve been living in a cave and aren’t aware, he has been a key member to San Francisco winning a pair of World Series in the past three seasons. His postseason experience alone could prove invaluable to a relatively young club in Oakland that is currently primed to make a deep run into October.

And granted, he’s not the Lincecum of old, “the Freak” that regularly blows 97-MPH fastballs by the competition and simply dominates. As proven by his recent no-hitter, though, he still has the ability to reach back and dominate the competition on any given night. Yes, those nights may be fewer and further in between, but the A’s don’t need it from him on a regular basis. Their starting rotation is already solid. Unless Bartolo Colon winds up on the shelf the remainder of the season due to a suspension, Timmy won’t likely see the rotation unless it’s just to give one of the other guys a break as the season wears on.  (Or you could go really unconventional and try out a six-man rotation to keep some arms fresh). With Brett Anderson coming back, it further pushes the thoughts of Lincecum taking the bump every fifth day from the mind.

Lincecum as a reliever in the short series of the playoffs though? Well, he was pretty damn good at that in 2012. In two relief appearances against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS, he logged 6.1 innings, eight strikeouts and no walks en route to a 1-0 record and a 1.42 ERA. He was even better in the World Series in two appearances, not allowing a run in 4.2 innings while striking out eight and walking just one.

And how would he look at the back end of the ‘pen setting up Grant Balfour? Doolittle does just fine, but he’s not without his hiccups this season either. Cook, Doolittle, LINCECUM, Balfour. That not only saves the starting rotation arms a bit, but it’s downright intimidating (not that current trio of Cook, Doolittle and Balfour isn’t already).

If the A’s did need him in a start rather than out of relief, he’s been pretty good pitching in Oakland throughout his career as well.

Tim Lincecum’s career statistics pitching at O.co Coliseum:

I Split W L W-L% ERA G GS CG IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
OAK-Oakland Col 2 1 .667 1.93 4 4 1 28.0 20 7 6 1 14 38 1.214 12.2 2.71

Even in his worst season, 2012, he wasn’t bad in his only start against the A’s in Oakland. He did not factor into the decision, but pitched six innings of three run baseball. He allowed three hits and walked four batters. The plus side, he was facing the A’s lineup, which he wouldn’t have to face if he was pitching for the A’s in Oakland.

Despite a deceiving record, and granted a very bad start against the Reds on July 22 in which he gave up eight earned runs, he’s actually been pretty solid dating back to the beginning of June. He only gave up more than three earned runs twice in his last ten starts. He has recorded ten or more strikeouts in three of his past four outings. He was also a solid pitcher down the stretch in the second half last season, pitching to the tune of a 3.83 ERA over his last 15 starts. If he could carry that over to the second half of this season, he’d be every bit the pitcher the A’s hope they’d be acquiring in Peavy.

In terms of acquiring him from the Giants… Well, here’s where it could get a bit tricky. Reportedly the asking price from the White Sox for Peavy includes Addison Russel and/or Sonny Gray, plus absorbing all of the nearly $20 million still owed him over the next season and a half. By comparison, absorbing just the roughly $7 million still owed Lincecum (his 2013 salary was $22 million) should seem doable. The real question mark comes in terms of Lincecum’s actual value in a trade, and how reasonable the Giants are in their asking price.

Here’s where San Francisco’s side of the argument comes into play.

In reality, Lincecum is likely worth a pair of mid-level prospects at this point. Perhaps a Major League ready player and a mid-level prospect if you want to be generous. Given his salary and his struggles, it’s hard to sell the idea that he is deserving of a blockbuster package these days though.

That taken into consideration, Timmy is still a fan favorite. Even during his struggles, the Giants still thrive on days in which Lincecum starts at AT&T Park. He relates to the fan base better than just about any player in the league at this point, and trading him would be wildly unpopular. Trading him to the Oakland A’s would have the potential to incite riots in Willie Mays plaza. (Okay, I may be exaggerating, but sadly, not by much). Yeah, there is a small portion of the Giants fan base that would welcome the move because it would still afford them the opportunity to see him pitch regularly, but the majority of fans would be angry. Especially if he really does help the A’s win a World Series.

Angry fans equates to a drop in season ticket sales, a drop in walk-up sales, a drop in merchandise purchased, etc… You get my point.  There’s also that nagging rumor that part of the reason the Giants won’t budge on their territorial rights for a San Jose stadium is because they want the A’s to move out of the Bay Area entirely. Would helping them win a World Series really help that cause?

I mean, he is a free agent following the season and the A’s aren’t likely to risk him accepting a qualifying offer, so he could always re-sign with the Giants if they want him back and he wants to return. Assuming his popularity isn’t too damaged by playing across the Bay for the remainder of this season that is.

By the way, such a move could easily be sold to Lincecum as such. Trading him across the Bay doesn’t force him to move, and it sticks him on a Championship caliber team for this season, and improves the Giants roster if he chooses to re-sign with them following the season. Win-win-win.

No, not that easy. Any move to acquire Lincecum isn’t likely to come at fair market value. Management would likely need to be blown away to make a deal like this happen, at least with the A’s as trade partners. For the record, the other teams interested in Lincecum, Detroit and Boston, would also find themselves paying a steep price in this seller’s market this July, but understandably not steeper than the A’s would.

Oakland has the prospects to make the Giants an offer they can’t refuse, but that would be a bad business move by Oakland. It’s the same reason a trade for Peavy is becoming less and less likely. So it would appear, we likely reach an impasse here and the conversation never even gets started. Hey, I did say it’s a move that you just know will never happen.

For the sake of argument though, consider this proposal:

Tim Lincecum and Marco Scutaro to the A’s in exchange for Chris Young, Jemile Weeks, Michael Taylor and any prospect No. 10-20 in the A’s system (that would include: Miles Head, Nolan Sanburn, B.J. Boyd, Arnold Leon, Drew Granier, Dillon Overton, Vicmal De La Cruz, Max Muncy, Chris Bostick or Anthony Alioto). It’s an overpay for sure, though Giants fans would consider it as discarding unwanted pieces, perhaps even some A’s fans would, but it would also provide both teams with some help.

In Lincecum the A’s get the pitching depth and postseason experience, a very dangerous weapon out of the bullpen in a short series and potentially a dominant starter if he can put it all together again. In Scutaro they find an answer to their second base problem, another veteran with postseason experience, who just happens to be batting .313, and a reliable utility infielder for the next two seasons if they retain him rather than trading him again in the offseason (his contract is a bit of an obstacle — which is also why the Giants should trade him now if they can, before it’s too late).

For the Giants, they get a young second baseman / center fielder in Weeks that could flourish with the dimensions of AT&T Park and a fresh change of scenery. Michael Taylor (though his value is in question) also could benefit from a change of scenery and playing in the National League. He has a powerful bat, it just hasn’t translated to Major League success in his limited opportunities.

Chris Young’s inclusion is mostly just to help finances balance out to make a deal doable, not that he couldn’t help San Francisco. He’s having a down season, yes, but he is familiar with the National League West from his time in Arizona and is a more than capable center fielder with some pretty good pop in his bat. If he plays well down the stretch, re-up with him for next season, if not, let him walk. Taking on his salary, though, makes it easier for the A’s to absorb all of Lincecum’s salary and the remainder of Scutaro’s contract, a savings of about $22 million over the next two and a half seasons.

Taking on Young’s salary just to make the deal work is still a savings of close to $17 million that can be put right back into improving the roster.

Scutaro has been very good for the Giants, but Weeks would be unbelievable at the top of the lineup for San Francisco for several years if he can find the game that made him a sensation in his rookie year of 2011. A change of scenery and a healthy serving of National League pitching is probably all it will take to jump start his career.

The throw-in of a prospect ranked between No’s. 10-20 gives the Giants a building piece for the future while giving them a former All-Star and two additional Major League ready contributors right away. It doesn’t decimate the A’s pipeline at all and allows them to deal from positions of depth while still giving the Giants useful pieces.

The sad reality is that neither team would likely pick up the phone and put in a serious effort to hammer out a deal that would make sense for both sides. The fans on either side probably won’t even acknowledge that such a deal makes sense for their respective clubs.

Lincecum and Scutaro in green and gold helps the A’s in 2013 though, and a package of Young, Weeks, Taylor and a building block piece help the Giants for 2014 and beyond.