Will Lincecum Be a Bargain?

The Tim Lincecum arbitration saga has been perhaps the most interesting story of the offseason. As soon as the possibility of Lincecum asking for $23,000,001, or one dollar more than CC Sabathia‘s salary, surfaced on the internet, the speculation began and the questions spilled out. What would Lincecum ask for? Would he do the unthinkable, as mentioned above? Would the Giants call his bluff and give a low offer? What will his case mean for future pre-arbitration stars?

There is no doubt that he is a special case. With two Cy Young awards in his first three seasons, the only player to even compare to Lincecum in terms of pre-arbitration hardware is Ryan Howard, with a Rookie of the Year award and an MVP. Howard came away with $10M in his first arbitration hearing – obviously a far cry from $23M, but also a number that most players don’t see in their third arbitration hearings.

Tim Lincecum’s camp came in at what some thought to be a conservative number, at $13M, making the Giants submission of $8M seem meager in comparison. Given the drop in free agent salaries the last two years, the dollar value of a win is almost certainly lower than the $4.5M we saw in 2008, these numbers compare favorably to Howard’s first reward.

Despite all the questions, it seems almost universally accepted that Lincecum will be a bargain at either price. Relative to his value on the free agent market, that is certainly true. As a 6 WAR pitcher, as projected by CHONE, Lincecum would be worth roughly $21M in this market, which has been paying about $3.5M per marginal win. Both totals submitted to the arbitrators are far less than this amount.

Remember, though, that we expect Lincecum, as a first year arbitration player, to only receive 40% of his market value. As a $21M free market value player, Lincecum should receive about $8.4M from the arbitrators.

So what does this mean? First of all, don’t be surprised if the Giants win their case, as it would be right in line with what the arbitration market has done in the past. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lincecum wins the case, either. Much like Howard, it’s possible that the arbitrators will award Lincecum a dollar amount above his true value due to his superstardom and his awards. If Lincecum wins his case, he wouldn’t be a bargain in comparison to other first-year arbitration cases. This isn’t to say that he’s not an asset – even at a market value contract, Lincecum is still an asset due to what he could fetch via trade and the fact that he can be worth six or more wins in any given season.

Regardless of what happens, it will be fun to watch.



Print This Post



Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Joe R
Guest
Joe R

If he doesn’t get more than Ryan Howard did, there’s something wrong. Howard’s obviously a very, very good player, but anyone who thinks he accomplished more in his first three seasons than Lincecum, probably watches too much of the Eastern SPorts Network.

(Yes I’m from Boston, I called out East Coast bias anyway, the only West coast baseball we regularly hear about out here is the Dodgers, including Joe Morgan’s weird attempts to proclaim James Loney a star, and Ichiro).

Nick
Guest
Nick

Part of the reasoning behind Howard receiving as much as he did though was b/c of how long it took for the Phils to bring him up to the majors after he was clearly major league ready. They ended up delaying his arbitration clock in what could be argued an unfair way for Howard. And so part of his arbitration award could be tied into this.

Joe R
Guest
Joe R

True, I didn’t think of that.
BUT LOOK HOW MUCH HE STRUCK OUT!

Sarcasm in italics for everyone.

Temo
Member
Temo

I doubt that was a real reason. Not only could they counter with the stirkeouts (and he did strikeout A LOT in the minors), but they could also just say they have Jim Thome blocking him, so they had no place to play Howard. Also, as stated in the labor agreement:

A) The criteria will be the quality of the Player’s contribution
to his Club during the past season (including but not limited to his
overall performance, special qualities of leadership and public
appeal), the length and consistency of his career contribution, the
record of the Player’s past compensation, comparative baseball
salaries …

the existence of any physical or mental defects on the part of the Player, and the recent performance record of the Club including but not limited to its League standing and attendance as an indication of public acceptance …

Any evidence may be submitted which is relevant to the above criteria, and the arbitration panel shall assign such weight to the evidence as shall appear appropriate under the circumstances. The arbitration panel shall, except for a Player with five or more years of Major League service, give particular attention, for comparative salary purposes, to the contracts of Players with Major League service not exceeding one annual service group above the Player’s annual service group. This shall not limit the ability of a Player or his representative, because of special accomplishment, to argue the equal relevance of salaries of Players without regard to service, and the arbitration panel shall give whatever weight to such argument as
is deemed appropriate.

The last sentence is, I think, most relevant to Lincecum.

Temo
Member
Temo

To clarify the above: the only arguments that may be made and considered by the arbitration committee is the length of major league service time, quality and consistency of contribution to team wins, any external factors (community/team leader, fan favorite, etc.), and, most important to Howard and to Lincecum, any awards received by the player which demonstrate his relative value.

The last bit is why Howard got so much more than his “actual” value (MVP awards are hard to argue against), and is why Lincecum will win his arbitration case (2 Cy Youngs are even harder to argue against). Awards have historically been considered to be exceptions to the service time rule, and should net Lincecum a good chunk of change.

wpDiscuz