In the wake of today's news that Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants have agreed on a new two-year contract, which will cover Lincecum's final two arbitration-eligible years, something must be acknowledged: Tim Lincecum isn't quite the pitcher he used to be.
In his first two (full) seasons, Lincecum posted a 2.55 ERA, a 3.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and gave up 21 home runs in 452 innings.
In his last two seasons, Lincecum's posted a 3.08 ERA and a 2.78 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and given up 33 home runs in 429 innings.
This differences are not insignificant.
According to FanGraphs, in 2008 and '9, Lincecum was worth nearly $70 million.
In 2010 and 11, he was worth roughly $40 million.
The Giants are going to pay him roughly $40 over the next two years. There's no good reason to think he won't be worth roughly $40 million unless he gets hurt, and there's no good reason to think he'll get hurt. But while there's been some talk about the Giants getting Lincecum's name on a long-term extension, this short-term extension is probably the best for the club. They were going to pay him roughly $20 million this season through the arbitration process and -- assuming he pitches well this season -- even more next year. So they've probably saved a few million bucks.
Meanwhile, they can also see if Lincecum's decline will be arrested or perhaps even reversed. If so, they'll presumably be first in line to get him locked up a year or two from now. If not, they could at least theoretically say goodbye to another pitcher who did his best work in his middle twenties.