Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Will Lincecum’s $13 Million Request Pass Muster in Arbitration?

Posted on February 09, 2010 by Don Spieles

In the realm of general managers in Major League Baseball Theo Epstein is known for, among other things, the fact that in the years he’s been the GM of the Red Sox he has never gone through an arbitration hearing. His ability to negotiate, the team’s liquid financial status, and a bit of common sense have prevailed over his nine year career.

Well, that and the fact that he’s never had a player quite the caliber of Tim Lincecum to deal with. That’s Tim Lincecum, the 25 year old San Francisco Giants phenom, he of the two consecutive Cy Young Awards in his first two full seasons on the mound.

Including Lincecum, there have been eight Cy Young winners who took the award in consecutive years in the history of the game. In the AL there was Denny McClain (’68-’69), Jim Palmer (’75-’76), Roger Clemens (twice – ’86-’87 and ’97-’98), and Pedro Martinez (’99-’00). In the NL, we saw Sandy Koufax (’65-’66), Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson (special honors for the 4-peats – ’92 through ’95 and ’99 through ’02, respectively.) Of that group, Lincecum is tied for the youngest to accomplish the feat (he, McClain, and Clemens all did it at ages 24 and 25).

Of that group, Koufax and Palmer are Hall-of-Famers. Maddux and Johnson are first ballot men to be sure, as would Clemens be if not for steroid controversy. Martinez stands a good chance of making the HOF as well. Maddux, Clemens, and Johnson are all in the 300 Win Club. Johnson, Clemens, Maddux, and Martinez, all posted 3000 plus strikeouts.

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics

Lincecum's early stats place him in very good company.

Suffice to say that, thus far at least, Tim Lincecum is in great company.

But if the two CY’s in a row get him a seat at the table, what about his other qualifications? How does he stack up otherwise at this early stage in his career?

Lincecum’s win/loss percentage (.702) is second only to Clemens. His ERA is better than that of McClain, and his WHIP (1.61) is better than that of McClain, Martinez and Johnson. And in a group known for strikeouts, Lincecum leads this impressive pack in strikeouts per nine innings (10.17).

In 2008, eight players chose arbitration and only two of them won. Ryan Howard of Philadelphia received $10 million after the club offered $7 Million and Oliver Perez of the Mets was awarded the $6.2 million he asked for instead of the $4.745 the club had in mind. In 2009, saw only three cases go to arbitration with Dan Uggla of the Marlins winning $5.35 million and Shawn Hill of the Nationals received $775,000.

With the exception of Howard, none of these players has the star status of Lincecum, or the ultimate value to the franchise in question. Although Lincecum is asking for $13 million, a record for a first-time-arbitration-eligible player, it’s hard to argue with his reasoning; he’s the hottest pitcher to hit the big leagues in some time.

The Giants were right in the middle in terms of payroll for 2009, ranking 14th. So there isn’t much room for the argument that they are particularly stingy or generous. They are a mid to low market team, sharing their area with the A’s, and they have a truly average spending line.

When you boil it down, what you’re looking at is the guy who won the biggest pitching award in the NL two seasons running. Howard won his MVP two years prior to his arbitration victory, although he did finish in the top five both of the next two seasons.

In the end, the question most will be asking is what logic the Giants will offer as to why Lincecum doesn’t deserve such a salary for his utter domination over the last two seasons. Whatever method that he and his agent, Rick Thurman, used to come up with their $13 million figure, many talking heads believe they’re going to get it. They’ll shatter Howard’s first-time-arbitration record, as well as the record for salary for a first-time-arbitration-eligible pitcher (currently held by Jonathan Papelbon at $6.2 million.)

There’s always the burning question as to whether or not anything a 25 year old does is worth that much money. But without overarching philosophical debate on celebrity earnings, if anyone is worth that much, wouldn’t it be Tim Lincecum?

Leave a Reply

  • Current Poll

    Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
  • Post Categories

↑ Top