A Non-Arbitration Sensation

February 12

Our long nightmare is over. Tim Lincecum is one of the richest and happiest 25-year-old skater dude-looking guys walking on this big blue marble. And guys who make about 1/2 of one percent of his salary are jubilant. That means you, Giants fans.

Whatever the case may be, this ended about as well as could be expected. The Giants and Lincecum’s camp were poised to go into this morning’s arbitration hearing in Florida, but talks heated up and the two sides stepped out of chambers. The Giants can say they stuck to their $8 million salary offer this year, Lincecum can say he got the $13 million he wanted, even if it’s delayed by a year.

I was wrong about one thing: the Giants were apparently not going to bring up his offseason potbust or other on-field issues, but rather focus strictly on his time of service and what a Super 2 should get, no matter how “super” he is. Lincecum probably wanted to focus on the market for double-Cy Young winners, but in the end they worked out a compromise and avoided any hard feelings.

In the end, the Giants got a major bargain. It puts them in a better position to trade for a big-ticket player if they are still in contention before the trade deadline. The Giants also won points from other teams, who didn’t want to see them lose in arbitration, and have the bar set at $13 million, the amount LIncecum was seeking.

Lincecum’s deal falls well short of the 5 and $80-90 million I think would have been fair for both sides to draw up at the end of 2010, if Lincecum continued to perform at the same high level this season. Down the road he might still get something close to that deal, and locking him up past the years the Giants “control” him may well be the issue next time around.

Lincecum got rich, got some security, but didn’t get the long-term deal he wanted. That may come at the end of 2011, after which Lincecum will have either proven himself to be one of the great pitchers of our era, or something less. I’m just hoping Lincecum didn’t settle because he knows something we don’t.

***

Several Facebook friends listed Lincecum as their #1 guy to start a baseball team when the question was posed on FB Thursday. That’s not a bad choice. He would probably be the first pitcher I would choose. At 25, he would seem to have a bright future if his body holds up.

My first choice would be Joe Mauer, the Minnesota Twins catcher, Gold Glover, batting champ and AL MVP. I know what you’re thinking — what about Albert Pujols? However, the gap between Mauer and every other catcher in the major leagues is much wider than the gap between Pujols and other first basemen, and Mauer is “three” years younger than Pujols.

Let’s put it this way: after I pick Mauer and you pick Pujols, your catcher might be Victor Martinez, but my first baseman will be a Ryan Howard or Adrian Gonzalez. I’ll have a leg up.

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