Lincecum is staying… and the 2014 Giants are going for it.


AP

AP

The free agency pool just got a little more shallow as the Giants made a move that was big on dollars but low risk in terms of years.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the San Francisco Giants signed Tim Lincecum, their 2 time Cy Young award winner at a crossroads, to a 2 year extension for $35 million.

$17 ½ million is a lot of money for a guy coming off of two seasons where he posted ERAs of 5.18 and 4.37. But Lincecum is not an ordinary pitcher coming off of two subpar years. The face of the post Barry Bonds franchise, the Giants know that Lincecum remains one of the most popular players in Bay Area sports history.

He isn’t in Joe Montana or Jerry Rice or Willie McCovey or Rickey Henderson’s level yet. But a lot of #55 jerseys are sold around AT&T Park and a lot of young fans identify with the pitcher who looks like he belongs in the X-Games.

Lincecum contributed big time to the only two World Series titles the Giants have ever won on the West Coast. In 2010 he won the Babe Ruth Award with his dominating performances in all three rounds, winning the World Series clincher. And when his rough 2012 forced him from the rotation, he became a shutdown reliever in the playoffs and World Series.

And even in the maddeningly disappointing 2013 campaign, his no hitter of the Padres provided the season’s greatest highlight.

The Giants had a winning record and were only a couple of games out of first place in late June. But a horrible July took them out of contention and San Francisco fans looked on in horror as L.A. not only zoomed past them to win the Division, but they did it with 2010 playoff symbol Brian Wilson wearing Dodger blue.

San Francisco is clearly putting together another run, hopefully to continue the odd symmetry that the National League pennants are unfolding. Giants won in 2010. The Cardinals in 2011.

The Giants won again in 2012. The Cardinals are representing the National League this year. Naturally, 2014 will be another Giants year.

With Buster Posey locked up through the beginning of the next decade, Hunter Pence signed to an extension and Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner signed to be teammates through 2017, the Giants are not only poised to go for it again, but with familiar fan favorite faces. (Say THAT 5 times fast!)

Bringing Lincecum back was important, but they were did not do it recklessly. Potential buyers were out there for free agency and some had that awful combination of money and desperation.

Both New York teams need pitching and star power. The Yankees galaxy of stars have dimmed with age, injury, retirement and Biogenesis suspensions. The Mets just lost THEIR fan favorite ace, Matt Harvey, for the entire 2014 season and need anything to placate their angry fanbase.

The Los Angeles Dodgers seemed to be relishing their role as the new bad guys in baseball. And like the Yankees when they snatched up Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens and Johnny Damon (not to mention Babe Ruth), there seems to be a desire to steal the Giants thunder and bring it down to Southern California. Brian Wilson and 2010 playoff hero Juan Uribe looked good as Dodgers. Why not rub salt in the wounds and bring down The Freak?

And of course the Seattle Mariners play in Lincecum’s home state of Washington. They already have an ace in Felix Hernandez and a host of talented young pitchers. Lincecum could come home and not have to carry the staff.

Instead he is staying put, and never had to get into a bidding war that the Giants would have been wise to back out of. Two years of Lincecum is one thing. More than that would be irresponsible.

Lincecum is a pitcher whose career could go in the directions that several different Cy Young winners went.

He could be like another two time Cy Young winning World Series hero, Bret Saberhagen. His career was derailed by injuries and save for a season or two, never became a front line starter again after he was dealt to the Mets before the 1992 season.

He could adjust from injuries and subpar seasons and become a valuable pitcher, if no longer a Cy Young winner, as what happened with Orel Hershiser and Jake Peavy.

He could develop into an All Star caliber reliever, as what happened with Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz. We saw a preview of Lincecum’s effectiveness out of the pen in the 2012 postseason.

He could take a crapload of PED’s and make comeback after comeback a la Roger Clemens and Bartolo Colon. (Sorry Roger. Allegedly take a crapload of PED’s.)

Or he could be done and his career never recovers, like what happened with Brandon Webb, who won the Cy Young in 2006, nearly won it again in 2008, threw one game in 2009 and never threw another pitch in the majors again.

In a couple of seasons, it will be crystal clear which one he is. If Lincecum pulls a Superman and flies around the world backwards, turning back time, then he will be in line for a gigantic contract.

If the worst case scenario happens (that would be the Brandon Webb career finished one) then it is a quick deal and by the end of 2015, it will be gone.

A lot of people will no doubt trash the deal for the inflated dollars. But the Giants will be making money and most of their shopping will be for role players anyhow.
They essentially got the band back together for one big push. Even an adequate Lincecum has value. Not enough for a long term deal, but perhaps for a low risk extension.

The Giants don’t have to have the awkward off season where everyone wonders if they should outbid another team for emotional reasons. Nor do Giant fans have to see him sign a contract they know is too long elsewhere but is still awful to see him with another team (the way we Red Sox fans contended with seeing New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez.)

Giant fans will either have two more memorable years with the freak, or it will be all over after 2015.

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