Tim Lincecum is worth whatever the San Francisco Giants have to pay to keep him.
The two-time Cy Young winner is an ace. He led the team to a World Series in a Cinderella story beyond compare in recent baseball (with the help of Buster Posey, who was out of commission last year, denying the team the chance for back-to-back rings.) Moneyball had nothing on their championship season.
And his fans love him. Adore him. Go to extreme-lengths for the pot-smoking Third Rock From the Sun/Dazed and Confused body-double. Last year a Bay-area-raised Brooklyn transplant friend of mine bought six tickets to see his beloved Giants battle the Mets at CitiField in Queens, timing it for a Saturday, when Big Timmy Tim Tim (the nickname ESPN gave him in a short commercial spot) was scheduled to be on the mound.
Several days before the game, the Giants pulled him off the day's roster, moving him from Saturday to Sunday. My friend--whose real name is Walcott--was dismayed for a split second. But then he got out his laptop, signed onto StubHub and switched the tickets out, eating the hundreds of dollars he lost on the deal so that we would be by his side to watch Tim pitch.
And 'Cotty, who was at least 26 at the time, watched that game like a child at spring training. He wouldn't have had it any other way. It's not about numbers (Lincecum is 69-41 with a 2.98 ERA in five seasons), it's about San Fran and their love for the boy.
That's what Lincecum means to the Giants. So as he continues to hammer out a contract, and the big numbers continue to appear in sports headlines, remember that he is the heart of the Giants. Not Posey and his season-ending injury, not Panda and his beard.
So when the Giants offer him $17 million, making him the recipient of the highest amount ever offered in the history of arbitration, don't sneer when he asks for more. He's reportedly asking for $21.5 million as a counter-offer. It's a negotiation, but one he will win with more than $17 million in his contract, or a different jersey on his back.
That's why the Giants vice president of baseball operations, Bobby Evans, wants to agree on a number before reaching an arbitration hearing, according to the L.A. Times.
In 2010, Lincecum got them to agree to a two-year $23 million contract, and they'll take his number again this year. He may be asking for the second-most money ever asked for in arbitration, after Roger Clemens sought $22 mil from the Astros in 2005, but he'll get close to that figure, and he'll surely get the most ever paid to an arbitration player.
It's six years later, he's got a ring on his finger and the recession is a moot point when it comes to baseball. If the Giants don't take him, other clubs will be lining up to shell out real cash. And Tim's worth every penny.