What’s my guess? I think Lincecum will be worth about $18 million next season based on past performance. In most arbitration hearings, players are compared according to service time. However, the special performance clause in the CBA allows exceptional players to compare themselves to the entire league, not just to players with similar service. If there was ever a case for exercising this clause, this is it. Back-to-back Cy Youngs, are you kidding me? Throw service time out the window.
I think Lincecum will win $18 million, hands down, but that’s a different question as to what he should offer. The arbitration panel picks the offer (the team’s or the player’s) that they believe to be most correct. If the Giants propose $12 million and Lincecum goes $18, Lincecum wins. But, he also could win if he goes as high as $24! To suggest $18 million would be to leave possibly $6 million on the table. Now, I don’t think the Giants will go that low—they will go under $18 though—so, I wouldn’t recommend $24 million, but I think Lincecum will ask for more than $18. How much more has to do with factors that I know nothing about. Have the parties discussed figures for a long-run contract? I suspect they both know something about what the other party might offer.
So, I’ll guess $20 million, but I suspect that the parties will reach agreement before a hearing, possibly on a long-term deal. The difference between arbitration awards (say $15–$20 million) is small compared the potential gains that Lincecum will expect to receive over the long haul, as his value escalates with baseball revenue and player salaries. He is likely to give up a few million a year as insurance to guarantee him $100 million over the next few years of his career. I look for the Giants to offer a long-run deal that Lincecum might find attractive rather than risk going year-to-year with him.