SAN FRANCISCO -- Though Tim Lincecum's agent envisions a arbitration hearing for the two-time Cy Young Award winner, knowledgeable observers doubt that a salary showdown with the Giants will unfold. The bare facts look daunting. Lincecum filed a one-year request for $13 million; the Giants countered with an $8 million bid. Typically, teams and players settle at the midpoint, but that's not so simple in Lincecum's case, given the $5 million gulf separating him from the Giants. But Brian Sabean has made a habit of avoiding arbitration hearings in his 13 years as the Giants' general manager. And various player agents, speaking Wednesday on condition of anonymity, believe that the Giants and Lincecum somehow will avoid a potentially divisive hearing.
One agent noted that Giants management probably doesn't want to face the possibility of paying Lincecum $5 million more than its offer. "There's too much risk there," the agent said. "It's not like the Giants are the New York Yankees. That's money that impacts the Giants' budget." Another agent predicted that Lincecum, who earned $650,000 last year, ultimately will settle for an $11 million deal with the Giants. That would be the largest salary for a third-year Major Leaguer. The existing third-year high of $10 million was reached by Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard, who won his 2008 arbitration case, and then-Yankees slugger Alfonso Soriano (2006) and then-Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez (2008), who lost theirs. Even if Lincecum loses in a hearing, his $8 million consolation prize would establish a record for a first-time arbitration-eligible pitcher. Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon set that standard last January when he avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $6.25 million base salary. Both sides have remained mum about the hearing date. Formerly, hearing schedules were widely disseminated, but more recently, teams and players have been reluctant to publicize the dates and sites for fear that the arbiter might study information about the case in advance and arrive at the hearing with a biased view. The scheduled window for hearings began Monday and ends Feb. 20. Despite the secrecy, one agent assured that Lincecum's hearing won't be held before Feb. 11, six days before Giants pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Lincecum's agent, Rick Thurman, told the San Jose Mercury News on Tuesday that the Giants have not discussed a one-year compromise regarding their prized right-hander. Thurman concluded that "it's quite clear the case is headed to a hearing." Thurman could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans told MLB.com that "conversations are ongoing" with Lincecum's side.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.