According to Hank Schulman, Tim Lincecum and the Giants have reached agreement on a two-year deal. The contract, which buys out Lincecum’s final two years of arbitration eligibility, will pay him a $500K bonus, $18M in 2012, and $22M in 2013.
The Giants had a few options with Lincecum, and I think they chose the smartest.
They could have traded him, but considering that he’s only under control for two more expensive years, I doubt the return would have been all that enticing. Now, I see the argument for it: such a move would have given the Giants much more financial flexibility this offseason, and there’s not exactly a deep free agent market for starting pitchers.
But the notion that “any pitcher capable of throwing strikes can do a decent job in San Francisco” is simply absurd. Dave Righetti is a fantastic pitching coach, and arguably the best in the majors right now. The Giants have done an excellent job developing starting pitching in recent years. I guess you could say they make it look easy to build a quality rotation. But it’s not.
And yes, it was a thin free agent market for starters. But there was certainly no shortage of options for teams looking to add to their rotation: Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Mat Latos, and Michael Pineda were all traded this offseason, and Gavin Floyd and Wandy Rodriguez (among others) are still on the trade market. Heck, Roy Oswalt and Edwin Jackson still haven’t signed.
Besides, the time is ripe for the Giants to capitalize on a weak National League West, and if they’re looking to contend in 2012, they’re best off holding on to Timmy. The back end of the rotation already has enough uncertainty as is.
Another option was to sign Lincecum long-term right now, but that would obviously have been quite expensive and risky, and thereby not the best option. Especially since Matt Cain‘s contract situation hasn’t yet been addressed. There are indications that Cain wants to sign a team-friendly extension with the Giants, and — depending, of course, on what “team-friendly” means here — that’s probably an opportunity the Giants don’t want to pass up.
So the Giants have Lincecum at around ~$20M in each of the next two years. Pretty reasonable. In not handing him a huge extension this year, they effectively avoided risk and conserved flexibility. Solid move.
Did I mention we get to continue to watch Lincecum pitch over the next two years? It’s pretty fun: