Might Timmy be for sale? If so, I'd kick the tires.

Should the Phillies Kick the Tires if Tim Lincecum Is For Sale?

The Phillies have needs. Lots of ‘em.

Third base, left field, center field, right field, bullpen… all are positions that need to be addressed before the Phils hit Clearwater in late February.

One need they don’t really have is in the starting rotation. Between Roy Halladay (who hopefully will be fully functional by March), Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick, the Phillies appear to have a pretty solid starting rotation set for 2013.

It’s not the once-in-a-generation rotation of 2011, but it’s still pretty darn good.

But there’s always room for improvement. And as everyone knows, Ruben Amaro loves him some dominant starting pitching.

Which is why the Tim Lincecum situation in San Francisco bears watching.

Linceum had a tough 2012. The two-time Cy Young Award winner went 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA, giving up 8.9 hits/9 IP and a league-worst 107 earned runs. His WHIP was a career high 1.468, with NL batters hitting a career-best .250 against him.

His season was so bad that he was left off the Giants’ NLDS roster.

That’s right. He was so terrible, San Francisco decided that Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito were better options than him.

Yowza.

The Giants went 2-8 in Lincecum’s last 10 starts as the lanky right-hander struggled with his fastball location all season long.

Lincecum is not thrilled with this development, by the way, although he is taking the high road.

“I’m not going to be the guy who throws a tantrum because I’m not getting what I want or I’m not getting what I think I deserve or whatnot,” said Lincecum, who said he is not speaking to reporters from this point forward. “It’s not about that. Right now it’s about the team and it’s about winning. This is not about stats. It’s not about individual rewards. It’s about the team.”

Of course, Lincecum has a pedigree. He’s won a world title with the Giants and has been a very good postseason pitcher. The fact that manager Bruce Bochy left him off the LDS roster speaks volumes.

The big question is whether 2012 was simply a horrible year for the 28-year-old, two-time Cy Young winner, or if his funky delivery and small size caught up to him, as some had worried it would.

According to Fangraphs, Lincecum’s K rate is right where it’s always been, at 9.19, slightly better than last year. However, his BB/9 IP were way off, up to 4.35 from 3.57 a year ago. He also gave up more homers this year, averaging 1.11 HRs/9 IP, up from last year’s rate of 0.62. His FIP (a sabermetric number indicating how well a pitcher did independent of his fielders) was 4.18, up from last year’s 3.17.

Perhaps most disturbing, aside from Lincecum’s inability to throw his fastball for strikes, was the lack of velocity on the straightball. Where it once averaged 94 mph in 2008, it was down to 92.2 mph last year, and just 90.4 mph this year.

So, was 2012 just a bad year, a “freak” occurrence? Or are the salad days behind him?

Kyle Boddy, owner of Driveline Baseball, wrote about Lincecum for Hardball Times last month, and seemed to pinpoint some issues with his mechanics when pitching from the stretch. Obviously, pitchers pitch from the stretch when there are runners on base, and if a pitcher is missing his spots with runners on base, it’s going to lead to big innings, inflating a pitcher’s ERA. Boddy also noted a new training regimen for Lincecum that caused him to lose about 30 pounds heading into this season, which he argues, affected his velocity this year.

Boddy’s findings indicate that he thinks Tim Lincecum can be fixed.

However, there is one other big issue that could get in the way of any potential trade.

Cash money.

Lincecum enters 2013 on the last year of a two-year extension reached with the Giants back in January that bought out the last two years of his arbitration, meaning he can become a free agent at the end of the year. This year, he’s set to earn $22 million.

IF the Giants were open to trading Lincecum, and that’s still a very big IF, is there any team that would run the risk of paying him $22 million next year after his horrible 2012 season? Is there any team that would shell out that kind of cash AND trade the prospects the Giants would want in return, without knowing for sure if 2012 was just “one of those seasons” or the start of a serious downward trend?

The Phillies already have three $20 million a year pitchers. It seems far-fetched that they would add a fourth, especially given how many other holes there are to fill.

However, if the Giants have no intention of signing Lincecum to a long-term contract (and given his 2012 stats, they shouldn’t rush into anything), why wouldn’t they at least listen to offers? And if they’re willing to put him on the market, they know they would have to eat some of his salary in order to move him.

It’s all speculation, but if the price is right, Lincecum could be a terrific buy-low opportunity for a Major League club willing to risk that his 2012 season was a fluke.

I doubt the Phils will go this route.

Of course, no one thought Amaro would sign Cliff Lee either.

Tags: Philadelphia Phillies San Francisco Giants Tim Lincecum

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