Tim Lincecum isn't going anywhere. The San Francisco Giants and the two-time Cy Young winner have agreed to terms on a two-year deal, worth a reported $35 million. The contract also has a full no-trade clause. Lincecum had signed a two-year, $40.5 million contract with the Giants prior to the 2012 season.
Despite his Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009, Lincecum has been on a downward trend. He'll turn 30 in June, and is coming off of back to back seasons where he threw fewer than 200 innings and posted ERAs over 4.00, the two worst marks in his career. Lincecum's velocity has also taken a step back over the last two seasons, and his 23% strikeout rate over the last two years is a far cry from the nearly 29% mark he posted during those Cy Young winning years.
Brian Sabean is continuing is strategy from last winter on doubling down on his current talent. That strategy massively backfired in 2013 when the defending World Champions scuffled to a 76-86 record. San Francisco now has three of the five members of their rotation locked up through next season, with Lincecum joining Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in the Giants camp for the next two years. The club will likely be exercising their $7 million buyout on Barry Zito's contract for 2014, and it's still unsure as to whether or not the team will exercise their $6.5 million option on Ryan Vogelsong for 2014.
$35 million over two years seems like a lot for Lincecum. He was worth 2.5 WAR according to Fangraphs over the last two seasons, which translates to the Giants paying roughly $16 million per win on his last two-year deal. If Lincecum performs similarly over the next two seasons, the Giants will be paying him $14 million per year – way more than the going rate of roughly $5-6 million per win. It seems like a pipe dream for San Francisco to hope Lincecum returns to his Cy Young form, and that the club is overpaying rather than risk Lincecum signing somewhere else and terrorizing them in the future.
But why would the team pay him so far above market value when they could have just given him a $14 million qualifying offer to help gage his value? If Lincecum accepts, great! You have him for 2014 at less than what you're paying him now. If he declines, great! You're getting a draft pick and saving a ton of money. He's not the same pitcher he was even two seasons ago, and if he gets hurt or performs so poorly that he has to move to the bullpen, how are the Giants going to feel about paying an injured player or reliever $35 million over two years? It's just a questionable move all-around from the team, and a pretty good deal for Lincecum, who only takes a minor pay cut to remain with the only club he's known during his career.