(photo by Marko Realmonte.)
Let the games begin.
The wheeling and dealing of 2014 free agency. The simple fact is that the Giants are probably not going to give a bag of money to both Lincecum and Pence who both become free agents after this season. And if they have to make a choice (and it looks like they do) the franchise goes with Pence.
It's obvious really.
Hunter is 30 years old and quite possibly an android, or at least bionic. In seven years in the majors he's played in 1038 games and had 4396 plate appearances. So he's averaging 148 games a season, and he's been on fire since the All-Star break this year. 19 home runs so far in 2013, and 21 stolen bases out of 23 attempts...and he has more than a dozen games left to play.
Timmy, on the other hand is an enigma. He is 9-13 this year. In 2012 he was 10-15. His ERA has been hovering between 4 and 5 for the last 47 starts. He's inconsistent and although there are those faint glimmers of the old Lincecum every now and then...the glory days of Cy Youngs are far behind him.
Yet, Timmy draws a crowd. From a marketing standpoint he's still fun to watch. He'd be a great asset as a reliever...but is he ready to admit that to himself?
Say what you will about Brian Sabean (and we've all said what we will about him) one thing we've got to admit is he is pragmatic. He'll make an offer to Lincecum. A respectable offer for two years (three at the max) and an offer that Timmy can walk away from easily. (say 24M for 2) Sabes can say he tried, Lincecum will get a better offer elsewhere and everyone saves some face, shakes hands and parts ways.
Hunter Pence is going to be offered a five year deal and a truckload of money. He deserves it. He's an every day player, an inspirational team leader and he's unbreakable. 75M for 5 years seems reasonable, although the pricetag might be as high as 90M.
Now some might say the Giants can surely afford both players. The thought that must be going through every person's head in the front office is: "How can we compete with the Dodgers in 2014?" And they are right to be concerned.
In baseball, like life, there is smart money and dumb money. The Dodgers have loads of both. They can afford to make costly mistakes hoping to latch onto a Ricky Nolasco every now and then. The Dodgers biggest problem is finding a way to fire Don Mattingly while they are having a winning season, but I digress.
The Giants need to set a starting rotation for 2014 and Lincecum may not be the solution to that problem. To circle back, no one likes the thought of Timmy in Dodger blue...but that might not be the worst thing to ever happen to the Giants.