Tim Lincecum’s Future Contract

Despite my personal impression that Tim Lincecum and his agent were content to go year to year until free agency, a report surfaced recently that the pair and the Giants were open to talking about a long term contract. Lincecum’s agent opined that his client was poised to be a Super Two after this season, a reasonable assumption, and that Cole Hamels‘ recent contract could serve as a baseline for Lincecum.

Of course, Hamels’ contract didn’t buy out any of his free agent years so that makes it tough to evaluate in a context that we are used to. Furthermore, the whole nature of Super Twos throws off our 40/60/80 evaluation scheme for the percentage of market value typically awarded to players in arbitration.

Projection wise, a plurality of systems come to a pretty consistent estimate of Lincecum going forward. He was otherworldly last year for sure, but he is due for some regression in his home run rate and it would be silly to project him to toss 220+ innings each season. Essentially, the systems agree that a good median line for Lincecum is represented roughly by the half way mark between his 2007 (3.2 WAR) and 2008 (7.5 WAR) seasons, somewhere in the high 4s to mid 5s. That amount of value is worth around $20 to $25 million a year on the free market.

The main question then is to figure out what would represent a fair value for Lincecum’s arbitration years. If he were a normal player, he would have a year of club control left plus a total of 1.8 years of arbitration in free market terms. So that you can refer back if/when Lincecum does get a contract, I will present a range of fair values based on differing parameters. The weighting refer to the percentage of fair market value paid to in arbitration.

3-year contract under 20/40/60/80 weighting: $25 million
3-year contract under 30/50/70/90 weighting: $32 million
3-year contract under 40/60/80/100 weighting: $38 million

4-year contract under 20/40/60/80 weighting: $42 million
4-year contract under 30/50/70/90 weighting: $50 million
4-year contract under 40/60/80/100 weighting: $59 million

No matter what, Tim Lincecum deserves much better than Cole Hamels got out of Philadelphia.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

9 Responses to “Tim Lincecum’s Future Contract”

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  1. Pat says:

    Is this before or after he gets hurt?

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    • joser says:

      People have been predicting that since he was in high school, and it hasn’t happened yet. Yes, he pitched too many innings last year, and he’ll spend some time on the DL in his career — all pitchers eventually do — but the folks who keep expecting to see his arm fall off keep being disappointed, year after year.

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  2. Actually, this is old news for Giants fans who follow the news closely. This first came out soon after the season ended for the Giants, but Sabean said that, while very interested in doing that, he would have to take care of other matters first.

    It was then quiet until, I assume, the agent brought it up again in the press recently. The Giants have done it with Lowry and Cain, so I assume they want to do it with Lincecum too. I would imagine that Lincecum’s agent is more aggressive in pushing the envelope on Tim’s value, unlike Cain’s agent, who accepted a similar contract to what Lowry got – I would have fought for more if I were his agent, he was worth at least 50% more, in my mind. That would make the negotiations longer and more drawn out. But it is in both parties best interests to get something done – as you note above, we’re talking $20-50M of guaranteed money that would be gone if, god forbid, something happened to Tim’s health; probably similar savings for the Giants to avoid the arbitration system. The question is where to draw the line, and Tim’s agent appear to be more aggressive (or perhaps it was Tim) in where that line is drawn.

    For a short history of negotiations, he was drafted the year before the Giants signed him by Cleveland, and while they offered a very nice 6 figure bonus (I think it was in the low to mid), which was very high for a 40+ round pick, Lincecum wanted $1M and stuck to that, and the Indians passed (imagine if they had CC, Lincecum, and Lee last season!)

    When the Giants drafted him, the slot was reduced by 10% that year, but Lincecum apparently held out for what the #10 pick got the previous year, because that is what the Giants paid him, about $200K over slot, over what his pick should have gotten, based on the bonuses that already had been paid for guys around him.

    I think he only got around low $400K salary for this year; if I were the Giants I think I would have pushed it higher, at least $500K, as an olive branch towards the negotiations for a long-term contract. However, I expect this year’s contract to be torn up and replaced if there is a new contract, so perhaps that point is moot. Still, it would have been a good show to reward the Cy Young winner, I think.

    Your numbers look pretty good. I did my own analysis after the Hamel’s contract came out and, if I recall right, came to around the same ballpark figures.

    FYI: need to fix the 3-year split percentages, there are 4 there.

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  3. Travis L says:

    Can you please remind me what the relevant sections of the super 2 designation are?

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  4. TangoTiger says:

    The short answer is that if you have 2 years and (roughly) 130+ service days, then you are arb-eligible. You get to compare yourself to the 3+ arb players (while the team gets to use other 2+ arb players).

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  5. TangoTiger says:

    I mean, both sides can use the 2+ and 3+ years of service players, but obviously the team will focus more on the 2+ player and the player will focus on the 3+ players.

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  6. SharksRog says:

    I felt the Giants should have tied Tim up for a decade as soon as he came up.  Certainly it would have been a big risk — particularly coming on the heels of the ill-fated Barry Zito signing — but it likely would have allowed the Giants to tie up one of the game’s top players at a much lower cost.While such a contract would have been unprecedented, the Rays were able to forge a tremendous bargain signing a year later when Evan Longoria — who had been drafted six spots (IIRC) ahead of Tim — reached the major leagues.

    Certainly signing Tim to such a contract would have posed a huge risk.  But clearly they gave the long-term contract to the wrong pitcher.  I’m merely a layman, yet I spoke strongly against the Zito signing (although I thought he would pitch better than he has thus far) and suggested locking up Tim right when he came up.

    I suspect the Zito signing was Peter Magowan’s idea.  Certainly it wasn’t recommended by the sabremetician the Giants employ.  And while signing Tim long-term would indeed have been perceived as a large gamble, I think the Giants — and Dick Tidrow in particular — realized Tim’s massive potential.

    Then again, Brian Sabean spoke publicly about considering trading Tim straight up for Alex Rios, which clearly would have been a horrible deal. Perhaps he was merely trying to pull a bait-and-switch for Matt Cain, although he also said publicly that the Blue Jays wanted Lincecum.

    The Jays are no dumbies! :)

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  7. nick says:


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