Free agent pitcher and two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum will host a pitching showcase next Friday in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Although he’s won two NL Cy Young awards, thrown two no-hitters and has been a member of three World Series championship teams, Lincecum failed to secure a Major League contract this past winter after becoming a free agent for the first time in his career.
Lincecum is a name I’m sure your probably familiar with, but have undoubtedly put at the back of your mind over the past few years. That’s because after a stellar start to his career (25.9 fWAR in his first five seasons), his production decreased dramatically. After finishing the 2011 season with a 2.74 ERA and 4.0 WAR (his lowest WAR sum over a full season to that point), Lincecum struggled mightily through the 2012 season and finished with a 5.18 ERA and just 1.0 WAR over 186 IP. He was ultimately used out of the bullpen in the playoffs that season.
In 2013, things began to look like they were turning around, though. Lincecum threw a no-hitter and finished with an ERA of 4.37, but a 2.54 K/BB (just about as good as his 2011 season) and an xFIP of 3.56. So, after the season, he signed a two-year deal with the Giants worth $35 million, which just expired at the end of the 2015 season. Unfortunately, that deal never really worked out for San Francisco, as Lincecum pitched just 232 innings across the two seasons, most of which came in 2014.
In 2015, his season ended prematurely, after undergoing a pair of procedures to repair a torn labrum and an impingement in his left hip, and that is what he will need to show has healed to teams next Friday in Arizona.
But will the Cubs really bite?
According to Jon Heyman, along with the Giants, the Dodgers, Rangers, Astros, Padres, and Orioles have been among the teams that have already expressed interest in the righty, but I suppose anything is possible (Heyman also mentions that the Cubs will be in attendance). At 31 years old, Lincecum is no longer the young fireballer with his career ahead of him, so it’s hard to determine just which kind of a team will look to sign him. Joseph Nocco (TodaysKnuckleBall.com) seems to believe that Lincecum is headed towards a minor league deal, which might make some sense, and that can open up a lot more doors to a lot more teams.
And the type of deal he gets might vary depending on the team he signs with. For example, a rebuilding team might be comfortable giving up a spot on their roster just to get Lincecum in the door, where he can possibly rebuild some value and be spun off at a later date. Whereas, a team like the Cubs would likely acquire Lincecum as a prospective midseason boost to their rotation or bullpen. They would have to be much more certain of his comeback than a less competitive alternative if they were going to put him on the big league roster – which is to say, a minor league deal would be more likely.
For what it’s worth, Fangraphs’ Depth Charts projections aren’t really buying Lincecum’s return (4.13/4.29/4.64 over 136 IP), but I’m not sure if those are really reliable or useful in this particular case. We already know that Lincecum is capable of pitching at elite levels, it’s really just a matter of determining if he’s healthy and has any capability of recapturing his former self. It’s hard for projections to do that work.
Frankly, I’d be surprised if the “The Freak” ultimately ended up with the Cubs, but it never hurts to do your homework. If there is even the slightest chance that there’s something there, you would be doing yourself a disservice by failing to at least check him out. We’ll see if anything comes of this after next Friday’s showcase, but for now, know that he’s available, and the Cubs are at least loosely involved.