Tim Lincecum's future contract

The word on the tweet is that Tim Lincecum is prepared to file a nice, safe arbitration request for $12M or so. That’s not cheap, mind you, but it’s far from the $25M, roster-limiting bear trap that some folks were predicting. The Giants will offer something like $9M, using Ryan Howard’s MVP season as a comp, and hopefully they’ll settle before the Giants embarrass themselves by using Lincecum’s RBI totals against him in an arbitration hearing.

The next step is a contract extension. Hey, Felix Hernandez got one, and he’s the guy that Mariners fans like to pretend is as empirically awesome as Tim Lincecum. Hey, you know what would have been neat for Mariners fans? If they had drafted Lincecum instead of Brandon Morrow. Then they would have had Hernandez and Lincecum. I wonder if they realize that? I think I’ll go over and write a FanPost at Lookout Landing.

For some reason, though, I’m able to leave my robe of emotions outside of the fan shower on this one*. The Giants are probably having talks with Lincecum’s agent about an extension that buys out his arbitration years, and I’m all for that. If nothing gets done, though, it isn’t time to panic.

The worst-case (financial) scenario if Lincecum doesn’t agree to an extension
Lincecum continues to pitch like the cyborg that he is more often than not. The Giants go year to year with Lincecum, and at the end of 2013, he leaves as a free agent. In the four years before his departure, though, the Giants will have had the services of best pitcher in baseball for 4/$90M or so, which would still have been a sweet deal.

If Lincecum has an off year, or if he were injured, the total contract would be less than the $90M. If his arm totally blows up, the Giants wouldn’t be locked into anything. And, yes, I made the sign of the cross, looked at the sky, and muttered something in Italian after I typed that last sentence.

The worst-case (financial and emotional) scenario if Lincecum signs a big six-year extension that buys out his arbitration years
Lincecum would now be guaranteed $100M, regardless if he lost a thumb in a roadside knife-fight with a drifter. The Giants would ensure that he wouldn’t bolt for Yankee cash after 2013, but that would come with a substantial risk if his production drops for whatever reason.

When it comes to a pitcher – any pitcher, even if he’s the best in the game – I’d rather have him on a 4/$90M contract than a 6/$110M contract. If Lincecum and his agent successfully navigate the young pitcher gauntlet all the way to free agency, more power to them. They made it past the final round without any lifelines left, even when the last two questions were about opera and taxonomy. Then the Giants will have to decide if a 30-year-old pitcher is a good enough risk to lock up with a franchise contract. That’s so far into the future, it’s not even worth contemplating. So , so much can happen.

For sentimental reasons, I’d like an extension for Lincecum. If one doesn’t get done, though, it’s far from panic time. He’s still here for four more seasons.

*I don’t know what that means either, but it’s vaguely creepy and descriptive, so it stays

** Also of note: the greatest unread comment in the history of FanGraphs…until now.

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