Tim Lincecum is eligible for free agency in 2013, will the Matt Cain signing mean he won't be back with the Giants?
Tim Lincecum is eligible for free agency in 2013, will the Matt Cain signing mean he won't be back with the Giants? REUTERS

The San Francisco Giants just gave nearly a fifth of their total payroll to Matt Cain, which locks up the popular right hander through 2018, but they have an even more popular and more talented pitcher on the roster, and now his future is in doubt.

Tim Lincecum, known as the freak, is a two-time Cy Young winner at age 27. He won back to back awards in 2008 and 2009. He's a strikeout master, leading the league in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and topping the 230 mark in each of the last four seasons.

He is a four time all-star and now he is potentially going to become a free agent. Lincecum's current two-year $40.5 million deal runs through the end of the 2013 season after that, who knows what will happen.

The Giant's biggest albatross, Barry Zito, is under contract for this season and next at 19 and 20 million dollars respectively. When he comes off the Giants could just dump that money onto Lincecum and seek to replace or resign Zito for much less.

But there are signs that both the team and Lincecum are thinking more about free agency than resigning. Before the current deal was inked, Lincecum proposed an eight year contract to the Giants, but they countered with a five-year $100 million dollar offer.

When both sides were unhappy with those discussions they settled on the two year deal that covers the remainder of time that Lincecum will be arbitration eligible. When the deal ends he will be free to see a contract with any team in Major League Baseball, and the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Mets, Cubs, Rangers, and White Sox would all have cash, and would line up to offer major money to a 29-year old Lincecum.

On the open market, Lincecum would be able to land something on the order of a six-year $130 million dollar deal. With Cain's deal from yesterday as a benchmark, he is worth at least that much, with numbers closer to $140 million not out of the realm of possibility.

The Giants may not have the cash, or the will to fork out more than $40 million per year for just two pitchers. The $40 million is 35 percent of their current payroll. If they keep both pitchers, they will be obligated to grow their payroll, something they may not be willing to do.

With both of the other California teams making huge offseason splashes, Albert Pujols to the Angels and the $2 billion purchase of the Dodgers, the pressure was on the Giants to make a big move, but this may have been the wrong one.