Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Tim Lincecum noted that he'd prefer to take things year to year rather than sign a long-term contract. That should be music to a general manager's ears.
Tim Lincecum is finishing up a two-year, $23 million contract he signed with the Giants in February 2010. Once this deal expires, he'll have another two years of arbitration eligibility before potentially becoming a free agent. So the Giants and Lincecum will be talking contract this winter, and Henry Schulman provides some of Lincecum's thoughts on the matter:
"I just don't know how I'm going to feel five years from now, or three years. That's why I'd kind of like to take things step by step and why I liked the deal I got last year."
"It's just easier for me mentally not to have to put that kind of pressure on yourself [...] when you're signed to a long-term deal, it's like saying, 'I'm going to live up to every expectation.'
"That's why I like going year to year, so I can improve on it and not sit on what I've done."
It's interesting to hear this in an era when so many other young pitchers are getting locked up for a while. We just saw Jered Weaver sign a long-term contract. Felix Hernandez is signed to a long-term contract. Justin Verlander is signed to a long-term contract. And so on. Good young pitchers are incredibly valuable assets, and many teams have moved to keep theirs. But Lincecum is content with short deals. He prefers them, even.
And as weird as it sounds, that's probably good news for Brian Sabean. Sabean, surely, would like to keep Lincecum around for a long time. He'd probably be willing to give Lincecum four or five or six years, because Lincecum is a phenomenal and popular star. But what has to be considered - what always has to be considered - is that long-term contracts given to pitchers seldom work out the way the team would like them to. Pitchers get hurt and miss time, pitchers get hurt and get worse, pitchers stay healthy and get worse - it's not that these contracts never work out, but they don't work out that often. The Giants don't have to look far to find one that busted.
The benefit of a long-term contract is that the player gets security, and the team gets to keep the player. Lincecum doesn't care so much about the security. The Giants probably don't want to imagine a future without their ace, but signing Lincecum to a shorter deal doesn't guarantee that he walks later on. It just means that, later on, they can see where they are.
And they can see where they are, knowing whether or not Lincecum is healthy, how he's performed, and how he feels. That's important information. Long-term deals require attempts at projection into a dark and unknowable future. Short-term deals do not to nearly the same extent, and so with pitchers, the benefits probably outweigh the risks.
I'm sure that, on some level, Brian Sabean would love to get Tim Lincecum locked up for the next half-decade. I'm sure the same goes for most every Giants fan. But if you can strip away the emotion from everything, you could argue that Lincecum is actually doing the Giants a favor by preferring short contracts. Future risk is such a concern when negotiating numbers with a pitcher. With Lincecum, it might hardly be a concern at all.