Agent says Lincecum not pursuing multi-year deal

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While speculation swirls about what kind of salary Tim Lincecum could command via arbitration later this offseason, agent Rick Thurman said yesterday that “as of today” the two-time Cy Young winner plans to “pursue a one-year deal” rather than sign a multi-year contract with the Giants.
John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that “the preference in Lincecum’s camp is to take full advantage of the arbitration system, which in turn would appease the players’ union” that “wants to see the process played out, if only so Lincecum could set a new bar for arbitration-eligible players.”
Serving as a guinea pig by going through the arbitration process would likely maximize Lincecum’s short-term earning potential while making the MLBPA happy, but by doing so he’d also risk giving up significant money in case of a serious injury. In other words the Giants would happily guarantee him at least $50 million and likely a whole lot more to buy out his arbitration eligibility and perhaps one year of free agency, whereas even a healthy, dominant Lincecum may not surpass that amount in total earnings via arbitration until his third hearing.
It’s hard to put myself in the shoes of a 25-year-old who’s just been named the league’s best pitcher in back-to-back seasons, but given the number of great young arms that have been ruined by injuries it might make sense to take slightly less money up front. Is the difference between making, say, $75 million or $60 million over the next three seasons worth the risk of a blown-out elbow or torn shoulder stopping Lincecum well short of either figure? Going year-to-year is maximum reward and maximum risk.

Tony Clark thinks front offices have too much of an impact on baseball

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Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post spoke to MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, who said he feels that front offices have too much of an impact on the game of baseball. Clark said, “You hear players saying it’s even hard to recognize how the game is being played. If those on the field see it and experience it, then those who are watching it will notice, too. It’s not to suggest I don’t like home runs or strikeouts or walks. I like all those things. But I also like more of the strategy and the dynamics that have always determined the outcomes in our games.”

Clark continued, “The decisions that are being made are changing the game. When you’re in a climate where the decisions about how the game is being played are being made less by the players who are playing and the coaches and managers who are coaching and managing it, we find ourselves in a climate that seems to be focused in on what everybody’s calling the three true outcomes: the home run, the strikeout and the walk. I would argue that there are two true outcomes: whether you win or you lose. … I’m not saying data is a bad thing. I’m saying it’s morphed our game and its focus quite a bit.”

Clark also discussed tanking, saying, “This isn’t a player problem. It’s reflective, I believe, of very deliberate business decisions. Players as a whole compete on every pitch and every at-bat. Our industry is predicated on competition from the top down. … What it appears that we are seeing in that regard is teams withdrawing from that competition for seasons at a time. It becomes challenging when it’s more than a couple of teams that are going that route, whereby you have a considerable chasm between those that are competing at one level and those that are competing at another.”

The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2021, so the union and the owners will have three more years of talking about these issues before they are concretely addressed. The tanking issue seems like it will almost certainly be addressed.

Clark’s concern over the impact of front offices may not be misplaced, but it’s difficult to envision any kind of rule making a difference. Limit what data teams can access? Centralize the data? The “scienceification” of baseball, if you will, was an inevitability, an evolution. In order to go in a different direction, the game will need to evolve again. Trying to tamp down data usage in baseball is akin to playing whack-a-mole with various ways with which teams will find advantages over other teams.

Major League Baseball could try to cut into the ever-increasing three true outcomes rate by changing certain things about the game without touching the data. Back in 1969, the pitcher’s mound was lowered to encourage more offense. In a similar vein, to encourage more doubles and triples and fewer home runs, stadiums could be adjusted to have the fences back to a certain distance (e.g. at least 340 feet down the lines, 410 in center). The pitcher’s mound could be moved back a few inches, lessening the impact of higher velocity, which has been a big factor in the ever-increasing strikeout rate. There are surely other ideas that smart people can come up with to bring the game towards a more active, enjoyable experience. We still have three years to go so we’ll certainly be seeing some interesting suggestions.