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Giants still keeping an eye on Tim Lincecum, who probably isn't coming back

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Even if Tim Lincecum blows everyone away at his February showcase, it's hard to see how he would fit with the Giants as currently constructed.

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We have updates in the world of Tim Lincecum, forgotten free agent. But before we get to them, let's discuss a scenario. It's an unlikely scenario, but bear with me.

Lincecum is going to hold a showcase in February for interested teams. It was supposed to be in January, but the delay isn't unusual when you think of how invasive his hip surgery was. If the goal is to make scouts spit out coffee and run to a pay phone, it's more important to be as healthy as possible than it is to keep a schedule.

In this scenario, Tim Lincecum stands on a mound, winds up, and chucks a baseball at 94 mph. Repeatedly.

Suddenly, he's the talk of baseball. The corpse of the offseason lurches back to life, and there's another pitcher and free agent to care about. There's an incentive-based bidding war. There are major-league deals with opt-out clauses. Some of them even allow Lincecum to opt out in the middle of an inning if he's particularly annoyed. Almost every team in the league would take a gamble on a Lincecum throwing hard again on his unimpinged hip.

That sure is an unrealistic scenario. But contemplate it for a moment. Do the Giants bring him back and have him scrap with Matt Cain for the last spot in the rotation. Do they guarantee the spot to him? Would this set up a Lincecum v. Cain battle that would tear us all apart? Not sure. I don't even know if that kind of spinoff would be canon. But I'd wager the Giants would at least be interested in an unimpinged, hard-throwing Lincecum.

At the very least, they would want to keep him away from the Padres or the stupid Marlins in this scenario.

Yet it would still be extremely unlikely for the Giants to re-sign Lincecum in that fantasy world. They have too much money tied up in Jake Peavy and Matt Cain to add a surprise entrant to a rotation battle, and both of them offer some promise of consistency and/or ceiling that make them intriguing. The team loves Lincecum and so do the fans, but it's not like Peavy and Cain are Mat Latos. They're popular, too. It's hard to see Lincecum throwing so well that he makes the Giants rethink everything they thought they knew about the current roster.

Now circle back to the likely scenario. Lincecum throws, and his arm looks a little fresher, a little more lively, maybe, perhaps, kind of, it's hard to tell. If he's throwing harder, it's not that much harder. Certainly not enough to create a substantial bidding war. There would be a couple of teams interested, absolutely. Maybe a couple of them would offer a major-league deal with substantial incentives.

In this scenario, the Giants wouldn't have room for Lincecum. They have seven spots in the bullpen, assuming they go with a standard 12-man pitching staff.

  1. Santiago Casilla
  2. Sergio Romo
  3. Josh Osich
  4. Hunter Strickland
  5. Javier Lopez
  6. George Kontos
  7. Chris Heston/long reliever

You see where the sweet spot would be for a Lincecum return. It's that one at the bottom, the presumed Heston role. Lincecum's showcase would have to thread a needle between "promising" and "not promising enough to compel other teams to guarantee a lot of money." There might be reasons to ditch the perfectly reasonable Heston for a chance to spend more money. I wouldn't expect those reasons to come up after the showcase, not unless several teams would be impressed enough to consider Lincecum for a rotation spot.

Do you see it now? It's the Tim Lincecum paradox. If he pitches well enough for the Giants to consider altering their plans substantially, there will be other teams who can offer more money or more guarantees about playing time. If he pitches about as well as we're used to, the Giants wouldn't have an obvious roster spot for him anyway. There's a spot between those truisms, but it's the size of a womprat.

So while the idea of the showcase is intriguing, and while we're all rooting like heck for Lincecum to throw 100 mph and break our brains, we should probably get used to the idea of him pitching for another team. Because while this is a nice sentiment ...

"Timmy has been such a big part of our fabric and success," Evans said. "It’s important we do our due diligence. Of course we’re going to keep in touch with Tim Lincecum."

... that's what the Giants have to say. The reality is that there just isn't a spot, regardless of how well or poorly Lincecum throws. Not unless there's a surprise or an injury before he signs with another team.

Here's hoping he throws 100 mph and goes to the Twins or something. They seem nice.