The Toronto Blue Jays are reportedly one of nearly 20 teams that will be represented in Scottsdale, Arizona to scout free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum at his upcoming showcase on Friday.
Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, has been working his way back from arthroscopic hip surgery since the offseason. The right-hander’s 2015 season ended early after five difficult starts in June (7.45 ERA) as he was shut down by the San Francisco Giants.
Jon Heyman reported over the weekend that Lincecum was working around 90-91 MPH with his fastball, which puts him right in line with his career velocity averages.
The Toronto Blue Jays are well-served to do their due diligence here, and stretching back through the Alex Anthopoulos days, they’ve been well-known for the number of tires they’ve kicked. But logically, this shouldn’t be much more than that.
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A quick riser through the Giants system after being selected 10th out of the University of Washington, Lincecum was one of the best pitchers in baseball from 2008 to 2011. He went 62-36 over those seasons, topping 210 innings pitched in all four with an ERA of 2.81 and four consecutive all-star appearances. After working with a K/9 close to 10.0 in those seasons, however, the 31-year-old’s strikeout rate has dropped to 7.5 per nine innings over the past two seasons.
Lincecum is reportedly searching for a starting job. As he should be, given that it will only take on of the interested parties to have an opening at the right time. Perhaps he’s all the way back, too, and entirely capable of slotting back into the middle of a major league rotation. These are things we cannot know until he signs and starts 10-to-15 ball games.
Toronto, however, doesn’t have a logical slot for him.
The starting rotation is off on the right foot, with Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Marco Estrada all rolling early. Sure, R.A. Dickey‘s stats aren’t beautiful, but he’s coming off a strong start of his own and should be expected to surge down the stretch as he has in years past.
Why not the bullpen, then? Even assuming that Lincecum would be open to a bullpen role (unlikely), Toronto’s back-end jobs remain locked up with Roberto Osuna, Brett Cecil, and Drew Storen. Joe Biagini is under Rule 5 limitations and pitching brilliantly while Gavin Floyd and Jesse Chavez are firmly locked in. Again, there’s no spot that is logical here. For either side.
As with any free agent jockeying or bidding war — the financial aspect here is still extremely difficult to predict — it only takes one team to jump above the rest. Given Toronto’s current dynamics, it doesn’t make much sense for them to be that team.