Today, the San Francisco Giants extended pitcher Tim Lincecum with a staggering two-year, $35 million contract.
It isn’t often than you can call any two year deal “staggering,” let alone one with just $35 million on the line. But, consider this: that $17.5 million annually would have made Lincecum the 10th highest-paid pitcher in baseball last year, and that includes three expiring contracts for guys who won’t make anything close to that next time around (Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, and Barry Zito). That means, come next year, Lincecum is a near lock to be among the 10 highest-paid pitchers in all of baseball. Top ten.
Factor in a reported no-trade clause, and this is a serious commitment by the Giants. What’s incredible is not just the makeup of the contract – it’s the fact that the Giants had to give Lincecum a no-trade clause in order to agree to a “mere” $35 million deal. Further, this is an extension. Lincecum hasn’t even reached free agency yet. That makes you wonder just what kind of deal the Giants were projecting Lincecum could have received on the open market.
That makes me wonder what the contracts are going to look like this offseason.
Although he rebounded somewhat this year from a 2012 season in which he could have justifiably been called the worst starting pitcher in baseball (with more than 175 innings, at least), Lincecum was still worth just 1.6 wins in 2013. His 4.37 ERA was the worst of his career, outside of 2012, and the same is true of his 3.74 FIP and 3.56 xFIP. Worse, his K rate was the lowest of his career (tied with 2012), and his walk rate only improved slightly (9.0% versus 10.9%). His fastball velocity, which had dropped dramatically in 2012 to just 90.4 mph on average, stayed down, at 90.2 mph. Lincecum turns 30 next year, so it’s not like the velocity is likely to come back.
On the heels of his disastrous 2012 season, this is a guy who is worth $17.5 million per year and a no-trade clause? Sure, you can dream on what he once was, and perhaps he’s a marketing vehicle of particularized value to the Giants, but I can’t wrap my head around this contract.
Unless, of course, salaries are going to take another dramatic step forward this offseason. If so, it doesn’t bode well for a Cubs front office that was already expected to take the conservative route.