Lincecum poised to break the arbitration bank

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Yahoo!’s Tim Brown reports that Tim Lincecum’s agents could file a $23 million arbitration figure if the Giants don’t come to their freakin’ senses and buy out the guy’s arbitration years.

$23 million would dwarf the previous largest request — Derek Jeter asked for $18.5 million in 2001 before settling on a ten-year contract.  The largest ever award to a guy with low service time like Lincecum was $10 million to Ryan Howard. Personally, I can’t see the Giants even submitting anything as low as $10 million as their arbitration number (remember: the arbitrators have to pick either the player’s number or the team’s number; they can’t split the difference).  He has already accomplished more than Ryan Howard did at this point in his career, and there is a good argument that there is no better pitcher in the game than the guy. Against that backdrop, it strikes me that the Giants would have to submit at least $10 million in order to not insult the arbitrators’ intelligence.

That said, I don’t think that the arbitrators would actually award $23 million. The process is defined by the search for comparables with a healthy dose of service time analysis, and while there certainly isn’t a comparable pitcher in terms of quality to Lincecum, there isn’t a comparable salary anywhere close to that either.  CC Sabathia makes that and he has eight years under his belt.  The arbitrators would certainly balk at just erasing nearly seven years of service time.

But clearly, Timmy is gonna get paid.  If the Giants move now and make a long term offer, they can make that paycheck (relatively) low on the front end, and allow it to grow as Aaron Rowand’s and Edgar Renteria’s contracts fall off the books in the next couple of years.  With a talent like Lincecum’s, it seems like the smarter play than gambling with the arbitrators.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.