Timmy does Giants a huge favor

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The talk earlier this winter was that Tim Lincecum might try to set a very expensive precedent. Few players have ever gone to arbitration with anything resembling his kind of track record, and none of them have had just two-plus years of service time. The closest comparable was Ryan Howard, who won an MVP award in his first full season in 2006 and then finished fifth in 2007. Eligible for arbitration for the first time as a super-two player, he asked for $10 million for the 2008 season and won his case.
Howard, though, even with his very impressive collection of hardware, wasn’t the NL’s best first baseman at the time. That was Albert Pujols, and Prince Fielder also had a superior season in 2007. Lance Berkman wasn’t far behind.
Lincecum, on the other hand, is the NL’s best pitcher. He was the obvious choice for Cy Young honors in 2008, and while it wasn’t so cut and dry last season, he won again in 2009. I can’t imagine even the strongest supporters of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright would consider either a better bet than Lincecum for 2010.
So, it was pretty disappointing Friday to see Lincecum take a two-year, $23 million deal just prior to an arbitration hearing. Lincecum had asked for $13 million in his first of four years of arbitration eligibility, while the Giants submitted an $8 million figure.
Lincecum will receive $9 million this year and $14 million in 2011. Incredibly, he’s taking less than the $25 million that Howard received between his super-two year and the first season of a three-year, $54 million contract he received a year ago. Before agreeing to that deal, Howard asked for $18 million and was offered $14 million in his second arbitration year.
It really is hard to believe Lincecum would settle for such a modest pact. Sure, he’s set for life now, but just the $8 million that he was assured in 2010 would have set him up pretty well on its own. Plus, he could have invested some of it in an extravagant insurance policy that would have protected him against a catastrophic arm injury.
But that wasn’t his choice, and the Giants should consider themselves extremely fortunate. If Lincecum is willing to give up money now, it has to buoy their hopes that he’ll eventually be amenable to a deal that will buy out some free agent seasons.
The MLBPA has to be considerably less pleased. Very few marquee players are actually stepping up and challenging the arbitration system. If Lincecum had won his argument today and received $13 million, it was perfectly conceivable to see a situation in which he could have earned $22 million-$25 million in a season before even becoming a free agent. Lincecum’s award might have been the difference between Jair Jurrjens asking for $9 million or $7 million when he’s up for arbitration for the first time next year. If could have set a precedent for when Clayton Kershaw and Rick Porcello become eligible for the first time in two years.
There won’t be any domino effect now, though. Lincecum is just the latest in a long line of big talents to play it safe.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.