Here's a bit of January semi-news from the Twitter feed of one Hank Schulman:
Random piece of info: #sfgiants have not given up on Lincecum long-term. I'm told prospect of re-signing Lince as a FA next year played into some budgetary decisions this year on long-term deals for other players.
I'm not sure I would read too terribly much into this. Yes, Lincecum might bounce back. Here are three possibilities for his future through 2014, in order of likelihood:
1. More of the same
2. Major surgery
3. Bounce back
Last season, as I'm sure you'll recall, Lincecum threw his usual pitches; he just didn't throw them nearly as hard, with both his fastball and his slider dropping roughly two miles an hour. Yes, he did pitch well out of the bullpen in October. But that doesn't herald a return to starting greatness. Rather, it's just another data point in the long history of starting pitchers rearing back and pitching better for an inning or two at a time. If Lincecum's future is in the bullpen, that's fine ... but you don't pay $25 million per season or make long-term budgetary decisions with that in mind.
I'm not saying Schulman's information is wrong. I will suggest that either a) the Giants know something important about Lincecum that we don't, or b) they're blowing smoke to justify not spending money on long-term deals for other players that they simply didn't want to spend.
It's simple, really. If Lincecum's 2012 was just a blip, he'll be in line for around $150 million on his next contract. And there's no way the Giants or any other team is currently planning to invest $150 million in a pitcher who just posted a 5.18 ERA and led the National League in wild pitches.