If you were paying attention on Tuesday, you probably noticed that Victor Martinez made the news for a bad reason. And if you were paying attention on Tuesday, you probably noticed that Tim Lincecum made the news for a not-bad and yet not-good reason. Tim Lincecum made the news because, thanks to Tim Lincecum, records have been set!
Tuesday was the deadline for teams and players to exchange salary arbitration figures. Tim Lincecum is eligible for arbitration. Lincecum submitted a request for $21.5 million, which is the largest request ever by a player with fewer than six years of service time. The Giants, meanwhile, offered $17 million, which is the largest offer ever by a team to a player with fewer than six years of service time.
So that's the situation. That's why Tim Lincecum is in the news. The question now is, where do we all go from here?
One place we could go is arbitration. Obviously. Where by "we" I mean "they". Arbitration hearings take place over a three-week span in February, and Lincecum doesn't yet have a hearing date. I don't know how hearing dates are handed out, but for whatever it's worth, Lincecum's last arbitration hearing was scheduled for February 12, 2010.
Let's say this advances to an arbitration hearing. In such an arbitration hearing, an arbitrator would listen to arguments from each side. A key would be the midpoint between submitted arbitration figures, which in this case would be $19.25 million. Lincecum's side would get a little while to argue that Lincecum deserves more than $19.25 million. The team would get a little while to argue that Lincecum deserves less than $19.25 million. Feelings can be hurt. When it's all over, the arbitrator would then rule in favor of Lincecum or the team. Meaning Tim Lincecum would end up with a one-year contract worth $21.5 million, or a one-year contract worth $17 million.
But an arbitration hearing is by no means guaranteed. I wouldn't even say that it's likely. Tuesday was the deadline for salary figures to be exchanged, but parties can continue to negotiate. The Giants and Lincecum have been talking contract for a while, and they will continue to talk contract.
According to reports, the Giants would like to sign Lincecum to a four-year contract. Also according to reports, Lincecum would prefer a much shorter contract, or a much longer contract. Obviously, no agreement has yet been reached. But some sort of agreement could still be reached.
We don't have to go that far into the past. In 2010 - Lincecum's first year of arbitration eligibility - Lincecum requested $13 million, while the Giants offered $8 million. The two sides kept talking, and they eventually agreed to a two-year, $23 million contract right outside the room where the arbitration hearing was to take place. They literally negotiated until the last moment.
And I suspect they'll do that again, if they have to. Teams usually try to avoid arbitration as much as they can. The gulf between Lincecum and the Giants is not that big. This can be overcome. Maybe Lincecum and the Giants settle somewhere in between. Maybe Lincecum and the Giants agree to a two-year contract that buys out both of Lincecum's remaining years of eligibility. Maybe Lincecum and the Giants agree to a longer-term contract like the Giants have been wanting for a while.
I don't think that this will go to arbitration. These things usually don't, and while Lincecum's case is exceptional, that's still something I'm sure both parties would like to avoid. Look for some sort of agreement. Probably not a long agreement. But an agreement to at least temporarily relieve the headache.
Ultimately, this is just about money anyway. Tim Lincecum didn't make the news because he changed teams. Tim Lincecum didn't make the news because he's about to change teams. Tim Lincecum made the news because he's going to get some kind of raise while still pitching for the Giants. Let's all of us return to our Prince Fielder speculation now.