Report: Lincecum, Giants remain far apart in contract talks

San Francisco Giants Tim Lincecum throws to the Philadelphia Phillies in the third inning at AT&T Park in San Francisco on August 7, 2011. The Giants defeated the Phillies 3-1. UPI/Terry Schmitt

The San Francisco Giants have had a rather quiet winter. Sure they made two trades in efforts to improve their weak offense, but acquiring outfielder Melky Cabrera for starter Jonathan Sanchez, and Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez was hardly the moves fans were expecting. The Giants essentially said that they would be frugal this offseason and thus far, they’ve kept their word.

But nobody expected the club to struggle re-signing one of its coveted pitchers, especially the ace of the staff.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, there is still a “sizable gap” in long-term contract talks between the Giants and Tim Lincecum. The club is believed to have improved upon its initial four-year offer from this summer, but Lincecum is thought to be seeking an eight-year deal.

Those close to the negotiations tell Heyman that both sides are weighing one-and-two-year contracts in case a long-term deal cannot be reached. Considering Lincecum already owns two Cy Young awards, helped the Giants win their first World Series title in San Francisco, and is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.74 ERA with 220 strikeouts, one would think San Francisco would jump at the chance to re-sign one of its prized pitching possessions. But apparently frugal is winning out at the moment.

The Giants also have a decision to make about No. 2 starter Matt Cain, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season. Cain posted career-highs in ERA (2.88) and WHIP (1.083), even though he only won 12 games last season. He’s been repeatedly burned by lack of run support over the years and if the Giants don’t want to pony up to keep him happy, maybe he’ll think about moving on after the 2012 season. He could potentially win 20 games with a team like the Yankees or Red Sox, who are constantly looking for good pitching.

If Buster Posey (leg) makes a full recovery, Pablo Sandoval keeps up on his offseason conditioning, and youngster Brandon Belt takes a major step in his development, the Giants’ offense won’t be as bad as it was in 2011. (Then again, how could be any worse?) But this club is built on its pitching so GM Brian Sabean has a lot of work to do in order to keep guys like Lincecum and Cain around long enough for the offense to finally blossom.

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Media overreaction or serious problem? Tim Lincecum is struggling.

When your run-of-the-mill starting pitcher suffers back-to-back poor outings, the media assumes he’s in a funk and usually nothing more is made out of it. But when the defending two-time Cy Young award winner suffers back-to-back poor outings, the media goes into a Mountain Dew-mixed-with-cocaine-like frenzy and poses questions such as: What’s wrong with Tim Lincecum? What’s wrong with Tim Lincecum! What’s wrong with Tiqiowehgoiwgh….

After giving up six runs in 4 2/3 innings on Wednesday night in a loss to the Nationals, all the talk in San Francisco yesterday was about Lincecum’s struggles. He also pitched poorly in a no-decision against the Diamondbacks in the start prior to his outing on Wednesday and has now walked five batters in each of his last three games after walking just 10 in his first seven starts combined. He has routinely fallen behind hitters early in counts and his main issue has been control.

But before this becomes national news, remember that Lincecum held the Astros to one run over eight innings on May 15 and also struck out 13 Marlins while walking just one on May 4. It’s not like he’s been in a season-long funk and the Giants have this huge crisis on their hands; he just needs to figure out what has ailed him over these last two games.

I’m not Dave Righetti, but it appears as though Lincecum’s struggles are mental. Early in the game Wednesday night against the Nationals, he allowed a runner a free 90 feet when he couldn’t handle the throw back from first baseman Aubrey Huff following a pickoff attempt. Those things happen when a player isn’t focused and it seems as though Lincecum’s struggles are getting inside his head and he’s pressing. The more an athlete fights his struggles, the more his struggles consume him and in my non-professional opinion, I think that’s what’s happening to Lincecum. Maybe he also has a small mechanical issue that Righetti can iron out, but it seems as if he’s suffering from lack of confidence more than anything else. (Not that he doesn’t have confidence, but maybe the seed of doubt has been planted in his head.)

Another underlining issue is the fact that the Giants paid him this past offseason (two years, $23 million), so now he has to deal with the pressures of trying to live up to a contract. If there’s one person that knows about that it’s Lincecum’s teammate and good friend, Barry Zito, who signed a $126 million contract with the Giants in 2007. Zito is living proof that the pressures of a contract can eat away at a player.

When things start to go badly for an athlete, he never feels like he’ll find success again. But Lincecum is an elite pitcher and it’s because he’s so good that people have already started hitting the panic button after two bad outings. During a 162-game season, the media has to talk about something and it has latched onto Lincecum after Wednesday night.

But he’ll be fine – everyone goes through these rough patches. Even two-time Cy Young winners.


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Giants, Lincecum avoid arbitration with two-year agreement

The Giants have reached a two-year, $23 million contract with ace Tim Lincecum, which allows the two sides to avoid an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for today.

According to ESPN.com, Lincecum will receive $8 million this year and $13 million in 2011, as well as a $2 million signing bonus. He also has a chance to earn performance and award bonuses, although no details have been provided on what those incentives are.

This is great news for both sides, as arbitration hearings can sometimes get messy between team and player. Lincecum had filed for $13 million in arbitration, which would have broke Ryan Howard’s mark of $10 million in 2008. The Giants submitted $8 million for Lincecum, which was viewed by many to be a lowball offer for a two-time All-Star and Cy Young winner. Lincecum also owns a 40-17 record and a 2.90 ERA with 676 strikeouts in only three seasons.

After overpaying for Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria (just to name a few) offer the last couple of seasons, the Giants made the right decision coming to an agreement with Lincecum before the hearing. Along with Pablo Sandoval, Lincecum is the face of the franchise and the ace of a fantastic pitching rotation that also features emerging star Matt Cain, top prospect Madison Bumgarner and 27-year-old Jonathan Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter in 2009.

Now that they have come to terms with Lincecum, the Giants can focus on what hopes to be a successful 2010 campaign. They have enough pitching to challenge for a postseason berth, but their offense has been among the league’s worst for several years now. The club hopes that the moves they made this offseason (i.e. signing free agents Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff, as well as re-signing Freddy Sanchez and Juan Uribe) will be enough to get the Giants back into the postseason.


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Giants offer Lincecum three-years, $37 million

In a surprising twist of events, a source tells John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that the Giants have offered ace Tim Lincecum a three-year, $37 million contract. The deal would pay the pitcher $9.5 million, $12.5 million and $15 million over the next three years, although Shea reports that Lincecum’s camp countered with a proposal for over $40 million.

If not, Friday’s hearing in Florida would decide whether Lincecum’s 2010 salary is $13 million (the figure he submitted) or $8 million (the figure submitted by the Giants).

The record for a player eligible for arbitration for the first time is $10 million (Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard), $4.35 million for a starting pitcher (Dontrelle Willis, Cole Hamels). It’s believed Lincecum’s agent, Rich Thurman, negotiating for a multiyear deal, has asked for a first-year salary close to the $13 million figure he submitted.

It was just yesterday that I hammered the Giants for creating a lose-lose situation by only offering Lincecum $8 million in arbitration and then following through with the hearing by setting it up for this Friday. I maintained they were running a risk of not only losing in arbitration, but also upsetting Lincecum (their franchise player) in the process by low-balling him with their $8 million offer.

But this changes everything. Now the Giants are showing their commitment to Lincecum by offering a fair deal that works for both sides. And if they’re only a few million apart, then hopefully they get something worked out by tomorrow and avoid a potentially messy arbitration hearing.

The Giants went from a lose-lose situation into a potentially positive one, although let’s see if they can close the deal before tomorrow.


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Lincecum arbitration hearing a lose-lose situation for Giants

Far be it for me to question what the inner workings of a professional baseball organization is doing, but what in God’s name are the San Francisco Giants thinking?

In mid-January, Tim Lincecum field for $13 million in arbitration, while the Giants submitted an $8 million figure. Many viewed the situation as the Giants low-balling their ace pitcher, but I figured that the $8 million would be used as a starting point for the club and Lincecum to reach a deal outside of the courtroom. I even told my cohort here at The Scores Report, John Paulsen, that they would likely avoid arbitration altogether and meet somewhere in the middle.

But upon waking this morning I read: Giants, Lincecum set arbitration hearing for Friday.

Nice prediction, Stalter.

Unless I’m missing the big picture here, the Giants have done a fantastic job of setting themselves up in a lose-lose situation. By submitting $8 million and then actually following through with the hearing, they risk not only pissing off Lincecum but also losing $13 million in arbitration. After all, what are they going to use against Lincecum – his RBI totals?

Fortunately for the Giants, Lincecum is being a total professional about the situation. He’s on record saying that he understands the business part of baseball and that it’s nothing personal. He also understands that the Giants could use his October 30 pot charge against him during the hearing, although that’s about the only thing the club has against the two-time Cy Young winner.

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