May 3, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) throws the ball against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
Rumor has it that the San Francisco Giants are seeking a starting pitcher on the trade market, but what they really need to do is jettison Tim Lincecum as quickly as possible in order to bolster their struggling offense.
Let me get this formality out of the way, right off the bat: We’ll all cherish Lincecum forever as a multiple Cy Young Award winner and World Series hero. Our memories of his iconic hair, diminutive stature and plunging changeups will endure through the ages.
But all sentimentality aside, is it time to sell high on Lincecum while the Giants still can?
Shipping The Freak out of the Bay Area certainly wouldn’t be popular with the team’s core fan base. Lincecum is a prolific marketing figure who has been the public face of the Giants for years. Now that the regrettable absence of Pablo Sandoval has settled in, the front office may be hesitant to sever ties with yet another franchise player.
However, with the team struggling to achieve offensive traction, Lincecum could be useful trade bait as San Francisco progresses through the first half of this season. Since 2012, Giants fans and media personalities alike have speculated as to whether Lincecum will ever return to form. Though he’s proven capable of tossing incredible starts over the last couple years, it has been difficult to predict his success with any consistency.
Only one thing remains predictable when you’re on the Tim Lincecum roller coaster ride: Giants fans are desperately eager to see him return to dominance once again. After each encouraging start, local pundits can’t help but hint that Lincecum’s latest resurgence is authentic. Some insist that he’s now well-studied in the mystical art of pitching with subpar velocity, while others obsessively scrutinize discrepancies in his mechanics.
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So far, the reaction to Lincecum’s solid start to 2015 has been cautiously optimistic. Over his first six starts of the season, his arsenal of strikeout pitches remain potent. Rather than relying on breaking balls to compensate for his lack of velocity, Lincecum now attacks the inside part of the plate more frequently. He’s been intent on jamming opposing hitters and utilizing count leverage to disguise his downward breaking splits.
It’s obvious that the Giants media following can’t stop gossiping about Lincecum’s perpetual rise from the ashes. His occasional flashes of brilliance serve as tantalizing reminders of just how amazing he was was four to five years ago.
And that’s exactly why San Francisco should attempt to trade him for young offensive talent.
Although I’m hugely appreciative of Lincecum and sincerely enjoy watching him pitch, I just don’t trust his latest reincarnation. I predict that he’ll have a couple more flashy starts, and then things will begin to fall apart as we get deeper in to the summer. But if a large portion of the Giants following is easily convinced that Lincecum is on the rebound, is it possible that other front offices in Major League Baseball are too?
Lincecum’s best days are clearly behind him, but there are undoubtedly a few general managers around the game who wouldn’t mind a piece of his legacy. Perhaps the rumored deal with the Philadelphia Phillies for Cody Asche or Cole Hamels could materialize if Lincecum was involved in a trade package.
Last night, Lincecum pitched masterfully against the Miami Marlins. Though it’s tempting to cling to the hope that he’ll stay consistent to that form, I’m not buying it. If Brian Sabean truly intends to make a trade to help lift his team back to the postseason, Lincecum should serve as fools gold for any desperate organization willing to take a calculated risk and fork over a sizeable ransom.