Tim Lincecum's free agent showcase is ostensibly scheduled for around March 1, which means that anything you read until then is pointless, baseless speculation. So I'm glad you're here! I specialize in that sort of thing.
Lincecum is busy training in an underground secret lair buried somewhere in the desert, hundreds of miles away. It was supposed to be in January, then it was pushed back to February, and now we're hearing March. This series of delays doesn't have to be a red flag. The stated reason just might be the most likely: He wants to make sure he's 100 percent at the time of the showcase because a Lincecum at 100 percent would make piles and piles of money, even if spring training has already started.
According to Jon Heyman, who's been on something of the Freak beat this offseason, the early whispers about Lincecum's general progress are encouraging:
Word from folks who've managed to sneak a peek lincecum looks very good. Expectation is showcase will be close to march 1— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 19, 2016
We've already looked at why Lincecum probably won't return to the Giants. Nothing about it makes sense:
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.
Can you imagine Lincecum looking so outstanding that he gets a three-year deal? Sure. Can you imagine him looking so outstanding that the Giants give him a three-year deal? No way. And so we'll all move on, a single tear rolling down our cheek.
There's an alternate scenario, though, something between the margins. We know that next year's pitching market is a desolate hellscape. So if Lincecum really is feeling springy, it would be far more lucrative to sign a one-year deal and reap millions on the other end than it would be to sign a three-year deal that's incentive-based and still far less than what typical starting pitchers get.
A one-year deal is something the Giants could get behind. But there's no room in the rotation, which is where Lincecum wants to be. My job today is to present you with an impossible choice.
Matt Cain looks good so far in spring training, apparently, but we'll have a couple of weeks between now and Lincecum's showcase. This is hypothetical noodling, the McCovey Chronicles equivalent of an eight-minute drum solo, but here goes:
If Matt Cain looks "good, right on track" and Lincecum looks "amazing, throwing hard, just like he used to", what do you want the Giants to do?
I know. You hate this question. That's why I love it.
A healthy Cain would be a boon for the Giants, not just in 2016 but next year as well. His upside is as an above-average innings eater, someone who could save the bullpen and pitch well enough to be in the middle of just about any rotation. He's already on the team. He already has the job. Messing with him, after 11 seasons on the team, to install a raffle ticket -- the one who played the Marcia Brady to his Jan for years, mind you -- would be a slap in the face.
On the other hand, Lincecum was more effective than Cain last year. That's the scale we're dealing with. The pitcher who was removed from the rotation before season-ending hip surgery was more effective than the Giants' current fifth starter. What if Cain's command really doesn't come back? It doesn't have to because he's rested, you know. And that would make last year's Lincecum more effective.
Now add in the magic hip of this year's Tim Lincecum. If he's popping 93 mph fastball after 93 mph fastball at his showcase, isn't there a small part of you that wants to take the chance? Or maybe there's a large part of you that still thinks the potential reward of Lincecum is still much greater than that of Cain.
Or maybe you're just fine with the upside of Cain, thank you very much, and you don't need to overthink it. It's like the famous line from Henry V, "Ne'er, dearest friend, go chasing waterfalls." Besides, the Giants already have Cain under contract, regardless, so it doesn't make a lot of sense to ditch the fan-favorite trying to reclaim his career just to spend money on another fan-favorite trying to reclaim his career.
All I'm asking you to do is play erratic owner for a moment and tell us what you would do if Lincecum's showcase is the talk of baseball and he's willing to take a one-year deal. Would you stick with Cain?
I would. Unless Lincecum looks like he's pitching Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS -- and even if he looks that crisp -- I still wouldn't trust him any more than Cain as a pitcher who could help the Giants. We're frice burned, fivce shy about Lincecum. And at this point, you stick with the plan that's going to be cheaper and far less divisive.
I'm sorry for putting you through this. Mostly. Have a good weekend.