I was just reading Only Baseball Matters, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite baseball blogs, when I came across a February 12 post about Tim Lincecum. I have been meaning to write something here since the San Francisco Giants resigned their two-time Cy Young award-winning pitcher to a two-year, $23 million contract last week. Something has not sat right with me about that deal since it was announced. What I read on OBM resonated:
First, this deal is a bargain, easily the best contract on the team. Second, it makes me wonder why the team didn’t pursue a four or five year deal in an effort to lock him up through his prime. At the end of this contract, he’ll be 28 years old, and if he performs anywhere as well as he has to this point, the Giants almost certainly won’t be able to afford him.
I have a hard time seeing how anyone benefits here. The Giants have basically put off the debate about whether they can afford to sign Lincecum to a long-term deal for exactly one year, maybe less; expect said debate to be incessant for all of the 2011 season as Lincecum approaches free agency, assuming he plays out this new contract. It seems it definitely would have been to San Francisco’s advantage to negotiate more years, even if it was just three instead of two. Lincecum’s price even a year from now could jump to $20 million per season, as opposed to less than $12 million now.
While I doubt the Giants won’t be able to afford Lincecum ultimately — whatever the cost — it definitely seems like going the Costco approach and buying in bulk would have saved them money. Then again, if said money would simply have been used on aging, crappy free agents, then maybe it’s good the Giants are taking this approach. Perhaps they can do the same with Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey and that Ishikawa guy, if that’s what it takes to prevent the second coming of Dave Roberts.
All this being said, I think Lincecum could also have benefited by opting for a longer deal. I think he took a smaller, shorter contract than he deserved, a paltry deal that does little to insure him if he gets injured in the next two years. Given his unconventional, hard-throwing delivery, I wouldn’t be hugely surprised if that were to happen– particularly if San Francisco finds itself in a pennant race and relying on its ace more than ever.
People may act like Lincecum is infallible, but really, much as I admire the guy and look forward to his starts, I just see another young flamethrower when all is said and done. Baseball’s got a track record for this kind of thing, and it’s not great. Pitching coaches can put their kids to bed at night with cautionary tales about guys like Gary Nolan, Mark Prior and even Sandy Koufax.
From my vantage point, it seems like both the Giants and Lincecum have a lot riding on this deal. It will be interesting to see who comes out better.