Section 2.4, Code 12.214 of Rules and Regulations of Sports Blogging:
An aside: It has taken every ounce of strength to leave the "Brian Sabean would have to swallow hard"-line alone. This mention of my non-mention becomes the obligatory mention I was trying to avoid, but I still deserve credit for my restraint.
But let's step back into two fantasy worlds. The first is a fantasy world where Cain and Lincecum aren't involved in a Cabrera trade. In some Baseball Mogul reality, the Giants could just keep adding Travis Blackleys to the deal until the value of 14 D+ players compensates for the A+ talent of Miguel Cabrera. Also, there aren't any other teams interested in Cabrera in this fantasy world, so there's no way the Giants could get outbid. If the Giants could put together a package of 14 non-Caincecums to get Cabrera, there is no question they should do it. That's so far removed from reality, though, it isn't a prospect worth discussing.
The second fantasy world is one where Cabrera could be had for Lincecum straight up. Again, this isn't likely. Most folks would think the Giants pulled off a substantial heist. Cabrera's offense is about as valuable to a contender as the pitching of a typical Cy Young contender. That can't be understated. For all of the fat jokes, which typically reflect more on the pundit making the jokes, Cabrera is a monster player with only a few comparable players throughout the history of the game.
Five years of Lincecum is almost certainly worth two years of Cabrera for most teams in the league. There aren't any guarantees with Lincecum. There was a point where Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were the most valuable commodities in the game. Young pitching blah blah blah. Most teams built to win now can't afford to sit on speculative value in favor of tangible value.
The Giants aren't built to win now, and it isn't close. Giants + Cabrera - Lincecum = still a non-contender. That's the only equation that matters. While Cabrera might provide more wins over the next two years than Lincecum over five -- and I'd put that proposition at about even money -- the Giants don't need those concentrated wins for 2008 and 2009. The smarter play is to hope Lincecum develops as we all hope and becomes an elite pitcher for the next contending Giants team. It's always a risk to count on young pitching, but the Giants don't have much of a choice. It's much more likely that Lincecum becomes an ace who helps the Giants contend within the next five years than it is for Cabrera to help a Lincecumless team contend in the next two, even if it isn't especially likely for Lincecum to remain healthy and develop into an ace.
I know this isn't ground-breaking analysis. In fact, let me give myself one of these:
It just needed to be written on the main page so I didn't get fined.