• Free Agent Pitcher Profile: Tim Lincecum

    It's no secret: the Twins are going to be in the market for starting pitching this offseason. In the Offseason Handbook, you'll find a comprehensive list of free agents at the position, along with brief writeups and contract estimates. Here on Twins Daily, we'll take five members of the FA pitching crop that may be of particular interest to the Twins and dive in with a little more depth. Today we start the series with Tim Lincecum.

    Also known as The Freak, Lincecum came up with the Giants in 2007 and almost immediately emerged as one of the best pitchers in baseball. In 2008, his second MLB season, he won the NL Cy Young by going 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA and league-leading 265 strikeouts. He followed up with another Cy Young in 2009, when he went 15-7 with a 2.48 ERA and once again led the league in strikeouts.

    His initial success enabled Lincecum to rapidly reach big paydays. In his third season, he qualified for arbitration as a Super 2 and earned $9 million. His salary continued to escalate over the next three years and this season he made $22 million. However, while his income rose, his performance declined. In 2012 Lincecum posted a 5.18 ERA and led the NL in losses with 15. This year he rebounded to some extent but was still well below average, going 10-14 with a 4.37 ERA while his K/9 rate dropped to a career-low 8.8.

    Lincecum's name still looms large, but he has experienced worrisome decline as he's aged into his late 20s, with his average fastball velocity dropping from 94 MPH in 2008 to 90 MPH in 2013.

    Why Does He Fit?

    Even though his results weren't great this year, Lincecum still piled up strikeouts at a solid rate, averaging nearly one per inning and fanning eight or more hitters on 10 occasions (a feat that, of course, no Twins starter managed all season long). If the Twins are serious about reversing their severe Vitamin K deficiency, Lincecum would be a natural target.

    Adding to Lincecum's appeal is his relatively low stock. Acquiring a former Cy Young winner under the age of 30 would normally require a massive long-term deal, but the right-hander's regression in the past two seasons will likely scare many suitors away from taking a huge plunge. For his part, Lincecum may be inclined to settle into Target Field for a year or two with the hopes of reestablishing his value. For what it's worth, his xFIP marks in the past two seasons have been 3.82 and 3.56, so the underlying peripherals suggest that -- while he's not the same guy he once was -- he's a better pitcher than his recent results show.

    Why Doesn't He Fit?

    It's difficult to trust a guy who has posted a 4.76 ERA over the past two seasons while his velocity and strikeout rates have continued to drop. Lincecum exhibits many signs of a guy who isn't fully functional. Has his arm simply worn down after being put through more than 1,000 innings of work in his first five seasons?

    That doesn't sound like the kind of player you want to be making a sizable investment in; then again, Lincecum has been incredibly durable up to this point, making 32-plus starts in each of the past six seasons. That's something the Twins value highly.

    What Will He Cost?

    Lincecum is a tough one to figure out. In the Handbook, we project that the righty will require four years and $64 million to lock up, but it's not hard to see the cost being significantly higher or lower.

    It all comes down to a couple key questions. Will general managers around the league focus more on his track record and age, or his declining performance and velocity? Will Lincecum himself be shopping around for the biggest possible offer, or will he opt instead for a short-term deal with the hopes of rebounding and boosting his marketability?

    Whatever the case, given that Lincecum leads all major-league pitchers in strikeouts since his first full season in 2008 and doesn't figure to be exorbitantly expensive, he should certainly draw some interest from the game's most K-starved franchise.
    This article was originally published in blog: Free Agent Pitcher Profile: Tim Lincecum started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 24 Comments
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Agreed, I have been pushing his signing for a long time this year. Price seems about right, qualifying offer hopefully will not detour the Twins from this signing
    1. shoestrings's Avatar
      shoestrings -
      I actually heard Lincecum wants a short term (1-2 year) deal to reestablish a higher value on the market. Quick Hits: McCann, Lincecum, Red Sox, Scherzer: MLB Rumors - MLBTradeRumors.com
    1. DomeDog's Avatar
      DomeDog -
      Timmy hates the cold. And hates humid summers. And he's a diva when it comes to weather. My guess is he lands somewhere in California, Seattle (his native land) or.... Well Anywhere else would completely shock the Bay Area.

      His arm isn't tired, it's old school rubber. Leave him alone with that pitch count hubub and the DL will leave him alone.

      He is in transition. He is finally learning how to pitch now that he's lost some velocity. He has it figured he just needs to be consistent and completely let go of the old Cy Young Timmy. I saw most of his starts here in the Bay Area and he is an interesting gamble. he could be a top notch #2 and what you want going in to the playoffs. The Cy Young Freak is no more. Every time he tries to be that again, he fails.

      The X factor is he could be coerced by a huge contract to be a reliever (2012 playoffs) where he has been infallible.

      He's not my first pick but I wouldn't complain if we found a way to bring him in. He's fun to watch! Good luck trying to sugarcoat 4 snowless months out of the year.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Until Ryan shows he will spend more than 8 mill a year on a pitcher it's kind of pointless to consider this kind of guy.
      It would seem the Phil Hughes/Josh Johnson kind of guy would be more in Ryans range on short term, make good, type contracts in the 6-8 mill range.
    1. Twins Daily Admin's Avatar
      Twins Daily Admin -
      Quote Originally Posted by shoestrings View Post
      I actually heard Lincecum wants a short term (1-2 year) deal to reestablish a higher value on the market. Quick Hits: McCann, Lincecum, Red Sox, Scherzer: MLB Rumors - MLBTradeRumors.com
      Yeah, there are varying reports on that. Yesterday, that was reported. But previously, it was reported that he wanted a long-term deal.

      I wonder if that latest rumor wasn't put out by his team to discourage the Giants from giving him a qualifying offer. Basically, that rumor said to me "If you give me a qualifying offer, you had better be ready for me to take it."

      So that's the other problem - he might not even be available.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Can't see the Twins entertaining him if he's given a qualifying offer ($14.1M or more annually). This is projected as a deep pitching draft. The Twins have to replace (get significantly better at) 7 position players and 6 pitchers to be competitive in the AL Central. That won't happen by signing Lincecum and giving up a #2 in next year's rule 4 [June College player] draft to do it.

      If he cost $16M, and the Twins are actually willing to spend, I'd say go another $4M-$6M higher and attempt to get Tanaka. (counting salary and posting offer)
    1. GoTwins's Avatar
      GoTwins -
      Could SF offer less than a 20% reduction for a qualifying offer?
      If he earned 22M last year, would he have to be offered at least 17.6M?
    1. Wookiee of the Year's Avatar
      Wookiee of the Year -
      Quote Originally Posted by admin View Post
      Yeah, there are varying reports on that. Yesterday, that was reported. But previously, it was reported that he wanted a long-term deal.

      I wonder if that latest rumor wasn't put out by his team to discourage the Giants from giving him a qualifying offer. Basically, that rumor said to me "If you give me a qualifying offer, you had better be ready for me to take it."

      So that's the other problem - he might not even be available.
      This makes sense to me--if Lincecum wants a 1-2 year deal, I don't know why he wouldn't take the Qualifying Offer. If he's available with a QO attached, it's safe to assume he's looking for a longer-term deal; if he's available with no QO attached, then he probably is interested in a short-term deal.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      4 years and $64 million? Whoa. I was not expecting that estimate. He would be a fool to pass that lavish contract up. I had been thinking 2 and $28 million.
    1. JustinCB's Avatar
      JustinCB -
      Not that I expect the Twins to engage in a bidding war for Lincecum, but Dan Haren has been a comparable pitcher over the last three seasons. Unlike Lincecum, Haren likely won't cost a draft pick and actually seems like a realistic target, moneywise.

      From Fangraphs today: Dan Haren, Tim Lincecum, and Perception Gaps | FanGraphs Baseball

      Unfortunately, the Twins were on his no-trade list as recently as 2010 when he was with Arizona, so he may have a preference to pitch elsewhere.
    1. JustinCB's Avatar
      JustinCB -
      Quote Originally Posted by GoTwins View Post
      Could SF offer less than a 20% reduction for a qualifying offer?
      If he earned 22M last year, would he have to be offered at least 17.6M?
      Qualifying offers are the same for all FAs, and are set by the league and the players association on a year to year basis. This year it's set at 14.1 MM.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      This guy has lost 29 games in the last two years with an ERA approaching 5--numbers that are Pelfrey like. Do we want to throw $30 million at him?? Really?? Same with Haren.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by JustinCB View Post
      double post
      A quick tip, for you and others who find this has happened: when you click "Edit Post", you'll find a button allowing you delete the post if that's your preference.
    1. markos's Avatar
      markos -
      I don't like the idea of signing Lincecum. His numbers the past two years make me really nervous. Yes, he has a nice FIP and xFIP, but I don't trust them in this case. In general, I'm skeptical of a pitcher who has significantly under-performed his FIP (and xFIP) while pitching in one of the best pitcher's-parks in all of baseball and pitching in front of a top-10 defense. xFIP normalizes home run rate, but Lincecum's HR% has been much worse than average the last two seasons in one of the best pitching ballparks in baseball. How much hope is there that his HR rate drops significantly when leaving SF and the NL West? Additionally, he has had a large spike in LD% the past two seasons, which again was much worse than average for 2 straight seasons.

      Baseball-reference has him with -0.6 WAR this past year because he pitched very poorly against below-average competition in front of a good defense in pitcher-friendly parks. In this case, I think their representation is more accurate than FIP or xFIP in determining his ability.
    1. JustinCB's Avatar
      JustinCB -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      A quick tip, for you and others who find this has happened: when you click "Edit Post", you'll find a button allowing you delete the post if that's your preference.
      Thanks. I tried that once, but wasn't clicking the little radio button for delete post. Got it now.
    1. TwinsAce's Avatar
      TwinsAce -
      I just saw that Timmy just signed with the Giants for 2 years.
      Really would have liked to see the Twins sign him, but that is no longer happening this year.Giants, Lincecum Agree To Two-Year Deal: MLB Rumors - MLBTradeRumors.com
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Timmy signed with the Mariners, not the Giants. He's from Everette (40 minutes north of downtown Seattle) and has a condo in Seattle where he lives in the Off-season. Good move for both parties.
    1. MichiganTwins's Avatar
      MichiganTwins -
      Nope, Tim just signed an extension with the Giants. Not sure where you are getting the Mariners from because it would not even be possible for him to sign with another team right now.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Mostly just wishful thinking. Not sure how I put that all together.
    1. Let It Sano's Avatar
      Let It Sano -
      The deal is reportedly worth $35 million. Yikes
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