Teams signing young pitchers to long-term deals during their arbitration years has become increasingly common (Verlander, King Felix) but there’s one notable exception – Tim Lincecum, the two-time reining NL Cy Young winner, is currently embroiled in one of the most intriguing arbitration cases in baseball history.
Quick summary: Lincecum filed for arbitration and has asked for a $13 million salary next season; the Giants have submitted a proposed salary of $8 million. If the sides can’t agree, there will be a hearing before a three-person panel during spring training in which both sides argue why their proposal should be chosen.
The hearing process can be brutal. Recently, the Yankees famously went to arbitration with Chien-Ming Wang (over about $600,000) and Wang was said to never quite past it emotionally. Remember, arbitration is adversarial – the team is basically obligated to tear down and minimize the player’s positives since it is trying to show that the player’s proposal is unjustified. That can get ugly.
Now, win or lose, Lincecum will end up with a record award for a pitcher (and $13 million would be a record overall) but it’ll be interesting to see if the Giants really take this to a hearing. MLB.com’s Doug Miller did a great breakdown of some of the historical precedents here, and looking at some past awards it sure seems to me like Lincecum’s got about as strong a case as anyone.
If I were the Giants, I’d be doing whatever I could to make a deal before it gets to the hearing. Plus, what would they say negatively about Lincecum if it got there? That they don’t like his hair?