Timmy and Arbitration
Before anything is said, it should be known: Tim Lincecum is a very good pitcher. Like once-in-a-generation good. He’s a 5′10” anomaly of a pitcher with the funkiest delivery this side of Juan Marichal, while his solid gold arm has quickly made him the premier pitcher in all of baseball. So why can’t the Giants and Timmy come to an agreement on his salary for next season?
Arbitration is a funny process. Both sides submit a figure dictating how much a player should be paid. The team presents an argument for why a player doesn’t deserve the money that they want. The player then makes his argument for why deserves a big fat pile of cash. An arbitrator then picks either the team’s or the player’s submitted salary figure, nothing in between. In the end, it’s a process that leads to more hurt feelings than anything, making for a difficult process of drafting a long term contract when the time comes.
Timmy had the opportunity to submit a figure up around $19-20 million, which would equal the highest paid pitcher in the Majors, C.C. Sabathia. Instead he filed for $13 million, $3 million more the record for arbitration set by Ryan Howard in 2008. The Giants filed for $8 million, a far cry from Lincecum’s request. Looking at the whole situation, Timmy had a chance to make things really freakin’ difficult for the Giants’ front office by demanding Sabathia money. But he didn’t. Instead he’s asking for $6 million less than the highest paid pitcher in baseball to be the best pitcher in the game.
Talks to settle on a contract before arbitration have broken down, with the latest offer from the Giants at $37 million over three years (Lincecum countered with an offer “north of $40 million”). To be fair to the Giants, offering an average of about $12.3 million a year over three seasons isn’t chump change. It shows a clear commitment from the front office to avoid an arbitration hearing. That said, it’s also under the average annual value of both Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander’s multi-year deals ($15.6 million and $16 million respectively). After looking at both those deals, $13 million doesn’t seem that bad after all.
Personally I say pay the man. Submitting $2 million less than Ryan Howard’s record arbitration money is borderline insulting to a guy with Lincecum’s pedigree. What could the Giants possibly say in a hearing to justify their $8 million figure? The man has just about no downside as a pitcher. Sure he could use a haircut. And yes he’s a young pitcher coming off of a couple of 200+ inning seasons, but that’s hardly a strong case. If this goes to arbitration, Timmy will win. It’s as simple as that. So why not avoid the long drawn-out process and give him the money he clearly deserves?
UPDATE: Giants give him 2 years/$23 million with a $2 million signing bonus, $8 million in 2010, and $13 million in 2011 (along with a ton of other performance-based bonuses).