While the attention has been almost entirely on the upper echelon free agent pitchers this offseason, one player in particular has gone under the radar. And that may continue into the new year.
According to a report by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Tim Lincecum is healing well from his season ending hip surgery and is preparing for a January showcase before making his decision on which team to sign with for next year. Lincecum hopes to be fully healed by January and ready to prove to scouts from several teams that he can still pitch at a high level going forward.
Despite the possibility that Lincecum could still end up back in San Francisco, and the interest is there for both sides, the San Diego Padres should make a push to sign Lincecum if he proves himself to be healthy. Even with an overall disappointing 2015 season, Lincecum has still shown that he can be a capable pitcher in terms of eating up innings. The real test for Lincecum going forward into 2016 is proving that his hip is healthy. If Lincecum can come back healthy from his hip surgery, perhaps he can regain some of his former Cy Young glory.
For the Padres, Lincecum is a chance they should be willing to take. With the failed experiments of Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow in mind, many both within and outside of the organization would be openly wary about signing another possible reclamation project. Despite these concerns, Lincecum seems to be well worth the risk. Lincecum seems to be progressing well from his surgery and may be able to regain his past performance once he is finally healthy.
He is still only 31 years old and should have plenty of career left in front of him if he can maintain his health in the short-term as well as the long-term. Although Lincecum only pitched in 76.1 innings last season, he did look slightly better than he has in years past before his hip injury ended his season. Once a two-time Cy Young winner, Lincecum could regain some of his past velocity that was diminished because of his recurring hip issues.
Outside of the cheaper contract and relative upside of signing Lincecum, the Padres have a clear need in the starting rotation. With Ian Kennedy likely gone via free agency, and at least one of Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner or James Shields likely traded this offseason, the Padres may be in need of at least one rotation upgrade for next season. Not only does Lincecum fit the mold but signing him also means that he will not be playing for the division rival Giants anymore.
While it may not be the most popular decision, signing Tim Lincecum could make a lot of sense for the Padres this offseason. Lincecum obviously still has a lot to prove before the season, and he definitely won’t fix all the Padres pitching problems, but they should take a chance on him. At worst, Lincecum is another bust along the lines of Johnson or Morrow, at best Lincecum may regain at least some of his former Cy Young potential.