At the risk of being a contrarian, allow me to suggest the Giants just committed an awful lot of money to a pitcher who hasn't been very good over the last two years.
Oh, that's what everyone's been saying? Well, then put me down for some consensus pie. Because the Giants just committed an awful lot of money to a pitcher who hasn't been very good over the last two years. And it's hard to fathom, at least at first. Let's dig into some historical analogies.
Todd Wellemeyer was one of the worst Giants pitchers I've seen. His ERA+ was 69 in 2010, and if the Giants stuck with him for two or three more starts, there's a chance they don't win the division.
Pretend Wellemeyer came back the following season and posted a slightly better, still awful, ERA+ of 76.
Then pretend the Giants inked him to a two-year, $8 million deal.
You would have freaked out. Pun half-heartedly intended. But you would have been upset. That much? For that guy? And what's the deal with two years? Shouldn't he have to battle for a rotation spot? Wait, is he even close to being worth a rotation spot?
Now add $27 million to that total deal. For Todd Wellemeyer. You would have heard the news, opened your door, and started walking the Earth, like Caine in Kung Fu. You would have walked from place to place, met people, got in adventures. But your brain wouldn't have let you process anything to do with baseball. No, no, no, that would have been too much.
If you think it's unfair to compare Wellemeyer to Lincecum, you're underestimating just how bad Lincecum's been the last two seasons. He gets bonus points for his postseason relieving and no-hitter, sure, but he's been bad. Considering the extreme AT&T Park and how far scoring has dropped around baseball, it doesn't look as bad as it could. Rob Neyer took a look at the 86 pitchers who have thrown more than 300 innings over the last two years. How does Timmy stack up with those 86 pitchers?
His walk percentage is eighth-worst. His ERA- is fourth-worst. His Wins Above Replacement according to FanGraphs is 13th-worst. His Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball-Reference.com is second-worst.
But other than that, it's been mostly good news. Just know that if Lincecum's name were Wellemeyer, or Dan Darnkenhoop, or Frazkin Carnt, or whatever, this contract would make you insane with rage.
It's Tim Lincecum, though.
/pets Lincecum bobblehead again
I got real locks of hair for mine.
Tim Lincecum is a part of the brand. The Giants are gettin' the brand back together. Which means the Giants believe there's value in never letting the franchise icons go until it's absolutely clear there's nothing left. It's what the Yankees did with Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada. It's what the Dodgers will do from now until the end of time. The big teams pay a premium for sentimentality because the image of a beloved player in another uniform disturbs the causal fans. And they're the ones who have to buy a program and four shirts when they go out to the park twice a year.
You remember when the Red Sox didn't buy into this idea with Pedro Martinez, right? They let him walk, and everything went to hell after that. Except for the World Series they won three years later. Oh, and the compensation pick they got for Martinez was used on Clay Buchholz, who's a huge reason the Red Sox are in the World Series again.
Okay, that was a bad example. Also, Martinez was actually good back then. So that's a really bad example.
But that's the thinking. This deal is two parts warm fuzzies, one part leap of faith. Maybe the strikeout rate really does mean more for the future than the raw runs allowed over the last two seasons. More importantly, if Lincecum does rebound to 2011 levels, he does it with the Giants. The fans don't have to see him do it in another uniform.
It's an overpayment, but I'm not sure how much compared to the open market. He was probably going to get a two-year deal, and it would have been somewhat substantial. Someone was going to pay $10 million a year to see if Lincecum's strikeout stuff would play up again. Maybe someone would have gambled $15 million. Maybe the Dodgers would have done it just to be dicks. That's not even a joke. There was value in them actively harming the Giants' brand, too.
All those words, but I haven't even broached the obvious: The size of Lincecum's contract doesn't matter a lick until we see what the Giants do with the rest of the roster. Are they still going to pursue the top free agents, like Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka? Or are they going to settle for Mike Morse and Ryan Vogelsong/Yusmeiro Petit because they've just blew the budget?
If it's the latter, goodness. Because I'm all about sentimentality. I wanted Lincecum back, even though he wasn't good. I'm a sentimental fool. But fans respond to winning more than sentimentality. And if this is all the cash earmarked for the offseason, they've probably hurt their chances of winning. Substantially.
If it's the former, and they're still spending as if Lincecum didn't exist, you go, front office! Spend that cash!
On the other hand, Lincecum's probably not that good anymore.
On the other other hand, Tim Lincecum isn't going to pitch anywhere else, and that warms the cockles of my heart.
Oh, the conflict. I get why the Giants did it, but I'll need to see the rest of the offseason before I freak out. Pun wholeheartedly intended.