Tim Lincecum has re-signed with the San Francisco Giants for two years worth $35 million, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Lincecum was set to become one of the more interesting free agents on the market, due to two down years in which he pitched to a combined 4.76 ERA and a 3.95 FIP. It would have been interesting to see whether a team tried to sign him as a reliever or maybe even a swing man, but the Giants clearly see him as a starter.
That’s a lot of money to give the 29-year-old coming off of a couple of down seasons, especially given his dip in velocity (he averaged 93.11 mph with the heater in 2011 and 90.9 in 2013), but it could wind up being worth the gamble.
First, Lincecum is trending in the right direction. In 2013, he might not have been the pitcher he was four years ago, but he still pitched to a 3.74 FIP and a 3.56 xFIP, which is very relevant because his xFIP over the last two years is 3.68 and his homer/flyball rate was 13.3 percent in that time as opposed to a 9 percent career average. The homers have ticked up, but the Giants are banking on him regressing back to his career average, while his strikeouts (which have stayed steady at around nine per nine innings) stay where they are.
Almost $18 million annually is a steep price to pay for a small starter who has been losing velocity and will soon be 30, but his inputs have still been pretty solid even through the last two years. He has made 65 starts in that time, so he has stayed healthy.
Maybe the homer/flyball ratio is who he is now, but the Giants had a lot of money coming off the books after 2013 (some of which they’ve already re-invested in Hunter Pence) and this is a risk that could pay off. The current starting pitching market isn’t exactly fruitful, with Matt Garza leading the group of mostly back-end types. A qualifying offer may have made more sense because I don’t think any team would have touched him had he been attached to draft pick compensation, but this move does have some upside.