The Giants come off the All-Star break with seven games in six days, three of those games against division-leading Arizona and four against Cincinnati. How those games fall will start to determine what the Giants and general manager Brian Sabean do at the deadline. Get swept out and the team could sell off assets to contending teams; come out roaring and San Fran could be buyers at the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. But either way, says Sabean, Lincecum shouldn’t expect to be moved.
In an interview on KNBR Thursday Sabean pooh-poohed the idea of moving Lincecum, saying, “I find it hard to believe that we’ll see Timmy in another uniform this year.” This is encouraging for fans of the diminutive pitcher, who had a career day last week in San Diego when he threw the seventh no-hitter in the San Francisco era.
Despite the no-no, Lincecum has failed to live up to his peak years for the second straight season, posting a 4.26 ERA in 19 starts in 2013. In the last year of a two-year deal, it has been speculated that Timmy could be flipped for prospects to a team looking for a back-end starter or some help in the bullpen. Lincecum showed what value he could bring in the ‘pen when he allowed just one earned run in 13.1 innings of relief work in the 2012 postseason. Ironically, the Tigers are one of the teams who have been linked to Timmy, a team he helped beat in last year’s World Series.
The Giants caught a break after the 2011 season when Lincecum turned down a nine-figure contract, instead choosing to sign a 2-year, $40 million deal to play out his arbitration years. The gamble cost the right-hander, whose value has plummeted with each walked batter and subsequent meltdown. The Giants instead chose to lock up Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, who got long-term deals to remain the core of the starting rotation. Bumgarner has shined since signing his deal last offseason, but Cain has failed to be the consistent ace he has been most of his career.
With or without Lincecum, the Giants have some re-tooling to do in the rotation. All but Cain and Bumgarner are free agents this season, meaning Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito and Lincecum could be wearing different laundry next season. Even if they do re-sign, there are age and effectiveness questions with all three. The Giants lost out on Ricky Nolasco — who was traded to the Dodgers on July 6th — and don’t appear to be in the running for Chicago’s Matt Garza. The name Bud Norris has been kicked around, but it remains to be seen if the Giants have the right prospects to get a deal done.
The farm system is rife with young pitching, with Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Chris Stratton arms to watch in the coming years. Crick especially has been great, but at 20, he probably isn’t going to make an impact until 2015 or 2016 at the earliest. Lefty Mike Kickham has shown flashes of good stuff in a couple of spot-starts in the majors, but hasn’t put it all together at the big-league level.
The Giants have won two World Series in three years on the strength of their pitching staff, but their potential success in the next few years may not be tied to their current staff. If the Giants want to be a perennial contender, they must re-load the rotation or add more thump to the lineup. Unfortunately for those Lincecum lovers out there, he doesn’t provide relief in either area. Sorry kids, nothing to see here.