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Tim Lincecum's case shows why arbitration sucks

Jan 20, 2010, 5:25 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for tim lincecum cy young.jpgJon Heyman wonders how the Giants may make their arbitration case against Tim Lincecum in the event they don’t settle. After noting how easy it would be for Lincecum — two Cy Youngs, babies — he passes along a potential team strategy:

The Giants could claim Lincecum’s second Cy was a “fluke” (a word I heard yesterday to describe it by a management type) in that it was basically a crapshoot between him, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and aided by two stat guys thinking Javier Vazquez should be in the top three.

That’s your case, Giants? “Fluke” + Keith Law + Will Carroll = $8 million? I once had an arbitration panel enter a $3 million award against my
client, and it was on the strength of a case ten times better than
that.

But really, what else would they have? Not much, I’d say, especially considering that Lincecum really didn’t shoot the moon in his demand the way many expected him to.  I guess if I had to argue the team’s case I’d think about mentioning the inherent risk to a young pitcher’s health and hope to get some discount for that risk, but I don’t even know if that’s allowed under baseball’s arbitration rules. It’s almost always about the salary and achievements comparable players. In light of that, being the Giants if this thing goes to a hearing will be a total drag.

Speaking more generally, I’ve never met anyone in the game, on the side of management or on the side of the players, who likes arbitration, and it’s easy to see why.  It’s all about forcing something that isn’t a truly adversarial relationship into an adversarial process.  The law frowns on this because when people don’t have truly opposing views on things it leads to strange and unsatisfying results. Baseball people hate it because it pisses everyone off right at the time — spring — when people should be pulling together.

Here, while the Giants and Lincecum must, by virtue of the process, take different sides on salary, they don’t have truly opposing views either. They both love Timmy. They both want Timmy to be happy. To the extent they have to fight it’s going to be artificial and, if Heyman’s source is right, profoundly silly. Fluke. Please.

Heyman suspects that the case will settle, probably with a two-year deal.  For the Giants’ sake, one hopes so.

  1. Joe - Jan 20, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    Haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere but it seems worth asking; can the Giants bring up his marijuana conviction in their case? If I was them I probably wouldn’t because it’ll probably do more harm than good. Is it fair game by the rules of the arbitration process or are off-field factors not considered?

  2. Old Gator - Jan 20, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    I fail to see what difference it would make. If the guy is just out for the biggest bucks, he’ll still sign with a team he thinks is run by a bunch of Meerkats if they offer him the filthiest lucre. On the other hand, a free agent may indeed stay put for a so-called “hometown discount” but not for much of one; perhaps to keep from dislocating his family, especially his kids; so as not to piss off his mistress enough to go the Enquirer and spill her guts, and even just because he likes the town he’s playing and living in. But I can’t think of one single free agent who ever signed with his old team just because the owners and GM were a bunch of nice guys. You?

  3. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 20, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    I think they can consider it, Joe, but given that the Giants’ owner actually flew up to be with Lincecum at his trial or plea or whatever it was, they’d have a hard time convincing a panel that it’s shameful or anything.

  4. Joe - Jan 20, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    Who knew the Giants could be so progressive?

  5. Joe - Jan 20, 2010 at 6:07 PM

    Who knew the Giants could be so progressive?

  6. Ice Berg - Jan 20, 2010 at 6:16 PM

    Too high; Didn’t read.

  7. frug - Jan 20, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    The Giants could claim Lincecum’s second Cy was a “fluke” (a word I heard yesterday to describe it by a management type) in that it was basically a crapshoot between him, Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and aided by two stat guys thinking Javier Vazquez should be in the top three.
    Actually Will Carrol voted for Dan Harren.

  8. Preston - Jan 20, 2010 at 7:53 PM

    Does Lincecum really have any reason to settle, though? Everything I’ve read says that his number was very reasonable, while the Giants number was ridiculously low – it seems like he’s virtually assured of winning, so why take any less than he filed for? Arbitration is clearly not a pleasant process, but I think I could hear some (clearly stretched) negative feedback for a couple million dollars. In any case, the downside of the process is far greater for the Giants than for Lincecum – the only real worry for him is that it hurts his psyche, which could affect his performance and therefore future earnings (which would also be a bad outcome for the Giants), while the worry for them is that hearing the team attack him in arbitration would make him less likely to resign with the Giants when his arbitration years are up (and certainly less likely to give them a home team discount).

  9. dock - Jan 20, 2010 at 8:35 PM

    Trade Big Z to the Giants straight up for Tim and his video game double. Cubs dump salary and Giants make Tim happy all the while having Big Z for a few more years. Cubs lock up Tim before end of Jan and bam! It’s all good!

  10. Gabbin - Jan 20, 2010 at 11:41 PM

    Lincecum is a super star, but the way baseball is, you don’t make the big bucks at his age. That’s just the way it is, across the board. Players, the Union, and management agreed long ago to set it up that way because that is the way they want it, and there’s no way around it. If Lincecum wants to cash in, he will have to stay healthy and keep pitching at an elite level for another few years, and then he will get what’s coming to him through free agency.

  11. Alex K - Jan 21, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    I’m a Cubs fan too, but WOW. The Giants would hang up in .000000000001 seconds, or laugh right in Hendry’s face if he offered that trade. Unless, of course, I’m giving Saben too much credit. Nah, nobody is that dumb.

  12. Jonny5 - Jan 21, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    Ok, first of all Tim’s number he offered WAS a home town discount. the Giants should be ashamed of their offer imo. If I were the Giants I’d offer a 2 year but much larger contract. His size says he won’t be able to do this forever. Actually he shouldn’t be able to pitch like he does period, but he does.If I were Tim, I’d go for the big money now as his career won’t be a very long one IMO.His “little” body won’t hold up to this abuse for much longer. Sorry Timmy ,I hope I’m wrong.

  13. Dress Left - Jan 21, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Best analysis I read was that Timmy will win the arb if it is decided that he is worth $1.00 more than the Giants submission.
    He is and he’ll get the 13 mil.
    Tell Pedro’s numbers about his ‘little body.”
    Timmy isn’t called The Freak for nothing.

  14. dock - Jan 21, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    I was wishing out loud, I know it wasn’t possible but the Cubs need to make some kind of move with their big 6 contracts. Looks like it’s gonna be another season of marginal baseball in Chicago

  15. rubinstein - Jan 21, 2010 at 11:10 AM

    Can someone clarify why the Giants don’t lock Lincecum to a long-term deal?

  16. Alex K - Jan 21, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    Unfortunately, I agree. I’m ready for 3rd place!

  17. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 21, 2010 at 11:32 AM

    or he can ask to be traded to the Yankees, all they do is win championships, what can the Giants offer him in that respect,
    nada,zip,zero…………

  18. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 21, 2010 at 11:35 AM

    the muncies will kick in soon, grab some cheeze doodles, orange soda and Suzy Q’s and you will be ok……….
    enjoy!!

  19. moreflagsmorefun - Jan 21, 2010 at 11:40 AM

    Maybe he does’nt want to be locked in and the Giants don’t field a good team. They brought back Molina, Maybe Tim suggested they do, he can call the shot’s for a while, you don’t have that kind of power while so good and so young and maybe he want’s to pitch for the Yankees, all tehy do is win championships.

  20. SharksRog - Jan 31, 2010 at 3:54 AM

    I think the key issue here is, why didn’t the Giants lock Tim up when he first came up — as the Rays did with Evan Longoria?
    I realize there is added risk with a pitcher, but Tim’s entire motion is designed to lessen the strain on his arm by having it pulled along by his body.
    Right now the Giants are in an awkward position regarding a long-term contract. If they go four years, they will pay a large price and not buy out even one of Tim’s free agency years.
    If they go five years as the Seattle did with Felix Hernandez, they wind up paying more than the Mariners paid for King Felix and buy out only one free agency year compared to two with Felix.
    Even if they go six, they buy out only two free agency years while paying Tim big dollars for the four years they already control him.
    And if they go seven years as they did with Barry Zito, Tim would likely use Barry’s $126 million as a catapult similar to that provided to his arm by his body.
    My recommendation? A four-year deal with three option years — with a very large buyout for the first option year declining in amount through the third option. This would give the Giants control of Tim for his first three years of free agency, while for Tim it would provide a very high guaranteed payout — and make him eligible for free agency not later than 32.
    Brian Sabean has already said at the end of the season that the Giants would work out a deal (perhaps for only one season) with Tim once the figures were in. He said the Giants don’t have much to knock Tim down with.
    When the Giants came in at only $8 million, it would appear they destined themselves to lose unless Tim went over the top with his offer.
    And perhaps all this could have been avoided if the Giants had showed the guts to sign Tim to a long-term deal when he first came up. The inability to do so will likely cost them tens of millions.

  21. SharksRog - Jan 31, 2010 at 3:56 AM

    I think the key issue here is, why didn’t the Giants lock Tim up when he first came up — as the Rays did with Evan Longoria?
    I realize there is added risk with a pitcher, but Tim’s entire motion is designed to lessen the strain on his arm by having it pulled along by his body.
    Right now the Giants are in an awkward position regarding a long-term contract. If they go four years, they will pay a large price and not buy out even one of Tim’s free agency years.
    If they go five years as the Seattle did with Felix Hernandez, they wind up paying more than the Mariners paid for King Felix and buy out only one free agency year compared to two with Felix.
    Even if they go six, they buy out only two free agency years while paying Tim big dollars for the four years they already control him.
    And if they go seven years as they did with Barry Zito, Tim would likely use Barry’s $126 million as a catapult similar to that provided to his arm by his body.
    My recommendation? A four-year deal with three option years — with a very large buyout for the first option year declining in amount through the third option. This would give the Giants control of Tim for his first three years of free agency, while for Tim it would provide a very high guaranteed payout — and make him eligible for free agency not later than 32.
    Brian Sabean has already said at the end of the season that the Giants would work out a deal (perhaps for only one season) with Tim once the figures were in. He said the Giants don’t have much to knock Tim down with.
    When the Giants came in at only $8 million, it would appear they destined themselves to lose unless Tim went over the top with his offer.
    And perhaps all this could have been avoided if the Giants had showed the guts to sign Tim to a long-term deal when he first came up. The inability to do so will likely cost them tens of millions.

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