Giants officially ink new deal with Lincecum
Right-hander stays off free-agent market with two-year, $35-million contract
In the end, it was Tim Lincecum's familiarity with the organization he grew up in and a group that has won two of the last three World Series titles that made the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner want to remain in San Francisco.
The Giants officially announced a two-year, $35-million deal with Lincecum on Friday, keeping the right-hander with the club that selected him 10th overall in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
"It gives you that freedom to know that I've done it with that group before and I feel like we can do it again," Lincecum said of turning his back on free agency. "Those are the kind of things you look for in going after an organization. But when I'm already plugged into one, you don't have to look too far with what they've done and what I've been able to do with them."
What Lincecum, 29, has done throughout his seven-year tenure with the Giants has been nothing short of historic.
He won the 2008 and '09 NL Cy Young Awards, 2010 and '12 World Series titles, and has compiled an 89-70 record and 3.46 ERA in 221 games (220 starts). His 1,510 career strikeouts are the third-most since 1893 through a pitcher's first seven seasons, behind Tom Seaver (1,655) and Bert Blyleven (1,546).
Lincecum was especially dominant from 2007-11, going 69-41 with a 2.98 ERA.
The last two years, however, have been very un-"Freak"-like.
Lincecum's 5.18 ERA in 2012 was the league's highest among pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. And although his 4.37 ERA in 2013 and a July 13 no-hitter showed improvement, opponents have hit .252 with 44 home runs off Lincecum the past two seasons, compared to .223 through 2011.
One key reason in that difference has been Lincecum's diminished fastball. His average velocity was 92.2 mph in 2011, but fell to 90.4 mph in 2012 and 90.2 mph in '13, per Fangraphs.com.
While Lincecum's contract has received skepticism since it was first reported on Tuesday, vice president and assistant general manager Bobby Evans said the improvement Lincecum showed from 2012 to 2013 has the Giants optimistic he'll be a valuable member of the rotation during the contract.
"I think that no-hitter was just the icing on the cake for what he had accomplished, but I think it showed that Timmy is coming into his own with, really, little different equipment than what he's had in the past," Evans said. "But he gave us real positive signs for what he's capable of doing."
Said Lincecum of the past two seasons: "When your last couple of years are a [4.75 ERA], I don't think that's the kind of way you want to go out and that's not the kind of guy I am. I looked at it as an opportunity to do something good in the same uniform."
The deal also keeps one of the most popular Giants in recent memory in San Francisco. Although that fact isn't lost on president and chief executive officer Larry Baer, he said this was a baseball signing and not just about keeping a fan favorite in town.
"I think everybody on our baseball side evaluating it said this was the right thing for the Giants," Baer said. "Hey, Timmy is a very popular guy. But I don't want it to be misinterpreted that this was done because he's popular. It was done because we think he can excel and get us to be where we need to be in the future."
Where the Giants go in the immediate future, after the World Series concludes, will be the free-agent market. The Lincecum signing fills three-fifths of their rotation, keeping Lincecum with fellow cornerstones Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.
There's also the need of a left fielder -- a position the Giants received a .257/.314/.651 line and five home runs out of in 2013 -- and the possibility of resigning left-handed reliever Javier Lopez, a pending free agent.
Evans said even with Lincecum's deal -- and that of right fielder Hunter Pence (five years, $90 million) earlier this offseason -- the Giants still have financial flexibility to add a top-level starter and a left fielder.
Evans said the loss of a potential Draft pick to free agents extended qualifying offers would impact their free-agent search, but it was one of a variety of factors.
"Ultimately, it depends on the relative options that we have and how those options will improve what we have and how they play into our club," Evans aid. "The outfield options are significantly limited. That said, we're going to explore all options and see how the market bears in terms of cost, in terms of years, and in terms of fit to our ballclub."