MLB Rumors: Could Upcoming Season Be Prelude For Battle In New York For Tim Lincecum In 2014?

By Thom Tsang
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, I know the 2013 season hasn’t even started yet, but if you’d be so kind as to humor my speculatin’…

The New York Mets‘ financial woes will be behind them after this season, as owner Fred Wilpon says. The team will be over the mess that was the Bernie Madoff scandal, and Johan Santana‘s contract will come off the books.

In short, the team is willing to spend money in the upcoming off-season, and spend it liberally. As “big investors” would, according to Wilpon.

Given the current state of the Mets team, there will be lots of places that the new-found money can be spent on, but the position arguably in most need of an upgrade will be in the team’s starting rotation, where the Mets will need an anchor for a group that looks to include young potential aces Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.

That likely means the team will look to get a big name out of free agency, and as it projects right now, the 2014 class of MLB free agents’ biggest name as a starter might just be Tim Lincecum.

It certainly would have been, anyway, had he not had the 2012 season that he did.

Still, consider what would be the to-be-30 year old’s competition. Josh Johnson is nice, but he still has to show that he’s over the health issues. Ditto Roy Halladay, but he’ll be 37, and has a vesting option. Adam Wainwright? Sure, but he didn’t exactly have a fantastic year coming off Tommy John surgery either.

All the top options come with their own set of questions, and none have the track record that Lincecum does. Even in the perfect-world scenario where they all return to form, Lincecum will easily draw the most interest among the group.

I’d imagine that the if Mets are going to put down some cash for a big name, it’d have to be a big “we’re back” type of splash, and Wilpon and co. could be waiting to throw a whole bunch of money at Timmy to try to get him to pitch in New York in 2014.

They may not be the only ones.

The New York Yankees too, are trying to shed their payroll to gain some flexibility, as face the prospect of having to to extend Robinson Cano. That said, they have also been waiting patiently for an opportunity to write a big check for an ace in his prime.

They probably thought that would’ve been Felix Hernandez, but the Seattle Mariners emphatically ended that thought with an all-time extension. Clayton Kershaw will be a free agent in two years, but well, you’ve seen the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ open-wallet policy.

Even on a reduced budget, the need to find a long term No. 2 pitcher to go behind C.C. Sabathia will continue to come up, and if Lincecum is even a 3.0+ fWAR pitcher next season, I’d assume GM Brian Cashman will be all over the righty.

Again, they won’t be the only ones, but the teams with the money to spend next season are limited, as always, and few will have a near-mandate to do so like the Mets.

If Lincecum continues on his path towards free agency without any significant hiccups as he did in 2012, he stands to have a very good chance of earning the largest contract among his peers in the 2013-2014 off-season. Sure, the San Francisco Giants will be in play, as will the usual suspects. But no team will arguably want – or need – a name like Lincecum’s more than the Mets, and the Yankees may not be far behind.

The subway series might not have the meaning it used to these days, but the New York teams could have a significant clash as free agent suitors soon enough, that could have a lasting effect on their respective futures.

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