The Giants Should Consider Trading Tim Lincecum

Paul Francis Sullivan@@sullybaseballChief Writer IMay 17, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 15:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants looks on from the dugout in the six inning against the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park on May 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Just a few months ago, even suggesting dealing Tim Lincecum would have been sacrilegious.


The Franchise. The Freak.

The man who delivered a World Series title to San Francisco.

But maybe now he should be on the trade market.

This isn't simply a knee-jerk response to his poor start. Sure, it looks odd that the ONLY Giants pitcher not worth a damn this year has been Lincecum. That the franchise is teetering while Barry Zito has been effective and given the Giants quality innings.

But this is more than a panic move; it could be preventing future panic.

Lincecum will be done with his contract when he is 29 years old at the end of next year. And let me tell you something, dear readers: Pitchers entering their 30s is a very dangerous territory—even for multiple Cy Young award-winning World Series heroes.

When Bret Saberhagen was 25, he was a two-time Cy Young award winner and the hero of the 1985 World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

After age 29, he had a grand total of two noteworthy seasons.

By 25, Fernando Valenzuela was a perennial Cy Young contender (and winner in 1981) and a World Series hero.

After 25, he fought injuries and was a fair pitcher, but no longer dominant.

More recently, Brandon Webb won a Cy Young at age 27 and nearly won a second one in 2008 at age 29. Since 2008, he has thrown four innings in the bigs and none since 2009.

Jake Peavy was a young Cy Young winner and after three years of injuries, he is just now regaining his All-Star form.

Josh Beckett was the hero on two World Series winners before he turned 28, but since then has been agonizingly inconsistent.

Need more examples? Ramon Martinez, Steve Avery, Jack McDowell, Frank Viola...

Each looked like a difference-making stud whose career dipped and did so pretty quickly.

And I didn't bring up Viola's name randomly.

In 1987, Frank Viola won the clinching Game 7 of the 1987 World Series. Like Lincecum, he pitched eight masterful innings to win the title.

Like the 2010 Giants, it was the team's first World Series title in their city despite a rich and talent-filled history there.

In 1988, Viola won the American League Cy Young, beating out Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, Roger Clemens, Bruce Hurst and Mark Gubicza. He was THE stud of the Minnesota staff.

In 1989, the Twins traded the 29-year-old Viola to the Mets in the middle of the season. The reigning Cy Young winner was the prize of the trade market and the Mets, in need of a positive jolt, plunked in the Hempstead native into the rotation.

It was a dream come true. And to be fair, at age 30, he did have an excellent season in Flushing.

But that was it. He was a not bad, but nothing worth remembering from 1991 to 1993. And save for a cameo here or there, his career was over after that.

Meanwhile the Twins, who traded away Viola when his value was at its peak, brought in five pitchers to their system. One, Rick Aguilera, became the bullpen ace and another, Kevin Tapani, became a solid starter for many years. A third, David West, was a key lefty out of the bullpen and all three contributed to the Twins' championship in 1991.

The Twins have won two World Series since the Mets' last title.

In 1989, that same year, the Mariners flipped their 29-year-old left-handed stud, Mark Langston, to Montreal and got three pitchers. Langston would end up having two or three good seasons in his 30s but lost a one-game playoff to his former team in 1995, his last good year in the majors.

The symbolism was ripe, as the pitcher he lost to, Randy Johnson, was acquired in the Langston deal.

Lincecum has been amazing. But pitchers, especially those with his slender built and violent motion, can break down faster than you can say "Dontrelle Willis."

If what we are seeing is the beginning of that decline, the Giants must realize that they will never get a better deal than right now.

Not everyone is Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine or even Mike Mussina. Not everyone has the decades-long career.

If the next great Giants team can be built partially from the loot that Lincecum would bring, it is at least worth thinking about.


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