Tim Lincecum was the tenth player taken in the 2006 June amateur draft and took the hill for the Giants in 2007 after only 13 minor-league starts. Since he'd struck out 104 of the 236 batters he'd faced and allowed only 26 hits in the 62-2/3 IP, it seemed like a wise move. FanGraphs says that Evan Longoria (the #3 pick) has racked up a career total of 26.9 WAR for the Rays since his debut in 2008. The only other player from that draft class remotely close is Clayton Kershaw (#7) with 17.1 WAR. He also made The Show in 2008. Tim comes in at 27.9 WAR. Baseball-Reference has its own Wins Above Replacement metric, and it rates Longoria a hair ahead of Tim (24.1 to 22.5), with Kershaw third (16.7), but that's a quibble. He's a great player on a team that's seen three post-seasons in the last four years so I don't begrudge the rankings. Three superstars from the Top 10, with a few other good ballplayers like Drew Stubbs (#8) and Brandon Morrow (#5) to round things out, you'd have to say it was quite a group. Toss in Max Scherzer (#11), Ian Kennedy (#21), Daniel Bard (#28), Joba Chamberlain (#41), and Chris Perez (#42) you've got some serious talent. Oh, and don't forget Emmanuel Burriss (#33)! He was a supplemental pick for the loss of Scott Eyre, another of Sabes' beloved LOOGYs. You have to pity the poor Orioles who took Billy Rowell, a high school third baseman, with the ninth pick. He's one of only two in the first 21 picks who has yet to see ML time.
When I'm on holiday I spend way too much time looking at B-R pages. Sorry about that. The point is that Tim is an über-stud and picking him was the best move the Brian Trust ever made. There was hand-wringing aplenty last season with Tim's drop in strikeouts and increase in walks, but I don't fret about that sort of thing too much. The lack of run support was appalling, something he had never really experienced (unlike Matt Cain!), and overall the team's fielders performed worse than in 2010. Things took their toll. The rest of baseball was gunning for the champs--as they should--and the barrage of injuries was a death blow to the title defense. Still, Tim finished sixth in the Cy Young vote despite a sub-.500 record. He was a beast, just not the best. When you are at the top and slip a little, it seems like a much greater fall. Unfair, sure, but reality. Guys like Tim are used to slugging it out for the big prizes, and I don't see how that's going to be different in 2012. I fully expect him to be at or near the top of the leaderboards once again.
The $100M question, of course, is what will happen with the contract talks. Rumor has it that Tim's agent was looking for an eight-year deal, and I would imagine he was thinking CC Sabathia money (7/161 in 2009, now 5/122), somewhere in the ballpark of $25M per season. The Giants will probably have to pay close to that in arbitration in one of these next two years, and I'm sure would love to settle on a four-year deal of about $100M that would buy out the two remaining arb years and the first two (2014-15) free agent years. But I get the feeling that's it's an "all-or-nothing" gambit on the Lincecum side: if he is indeed The Franchise, he ought to be treated like one. Aaron Rowand's salary comes off the books in 2013, and Barry Zito can be bought out in 2014. I think the Giants would rather go to arb again this season than commit to a "franchise" type deal yet. And who knows? They may never again after Zito. But some money will be freed up in case they decide to go that way. One thing is for sure, they won't want a bidding war like the recent situation with Albert Pujols. Those don't end well. If they are going to keep him around, they'll have one more chance--next off-season--to make that happen. The Cain situation is actually more urgent, and will tell us a lot about the restructured ownership group and The Reign of Larry Baer. I still think he looks a little too much like Maximilien Robespierre.