In the long, storied history of the Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers/Robins/Superbas/Bridegrooms/Grooms/Grays/Atlantics and the San Francisco/New York Giants/Gothams, there have been 228 players to play for both franchises. You can break them into four basic categories:
- Dodgers who also played for the Giants. These include guys like Duke Snider, Orel Hershiser, Dusty Baker, Manny Mota, and Reggie Smith.
- Giants who also played for the Dodgers. That would be Juan Marichal, Brian Wilson, Jason Schmidt, Sergio Romo, Freddie Lindstrom, High Pockets Kelly, Sal Maglie, and the like.
- Players who played for both teams but really made their marks with other teams. This list would include Darryl Strawberry, Hack Wilson, Eric Davis, Joe Medwick, Steve Finley, and Kenny Lofton.
- And most players fall into the category of guys who were never really a big deal for the Dodgers or the Giants or anyone else, guys like Justin Ruggiano and Eric Surkamp and Tacks Latimer.
You can quibble a bit about where some players belong, like Juan Uribe or Jeff Kent or Brett Butler. But one man who could end up being number 229 on the master list would be easily categorized: Tim Lincecum.
Lincecum had a showcase on Thursday that was attended by representatives from 17 major league organizations, and it was reported that his fastball sat at 91-93 miles per hour. That’s still a tick below the 94.6 average fastball velocity he displayed during his first Cy Young season in 2008, but it’s significantly higher than the 88.4 he averaged in his disastrous nine-game stint with the Los Angeles Angels two seasons ago. Lincecum hasn’t averaged over 91.5 MPH since 2011, which was, not coincidentally, the last time he was an excellent pitcher.
Lincecum’s days as a dominant starting pitcher are unlikely to return, velocity or not. He is going into his age-34 season, and throwing 93 for a few pitches at a showcase is much different from throwing 100 pitches to big league hitters. But if Lincecum’s role is in the bullpen, the Dodgers make sense on a number of fronts.
First of all, the Dodgers have a recent history of employing former Giants in their bullpen. The Sergio Romo experiment was mostly a failure last year, but Brian Wilson was quite effective in his season-plus with the Dodgers (if you can ignore his first 11 appearances of the 2014 season). Both Wilson and Romo came to Los Angeles with a bit of a chip on their shoulders and extra motivation to play for the rival of the team that had let them go. Lincecum could fit that same description.
The Dodgers’ success with Brandon Morrow — and even Kenta Maeda in the 2017 postseason — could lend itself to a Lincecum experiment, too. Morrow was drafted as a hard-throwing, dominant starter back in 2006, two picks before the Dodgers took Clayton Kershaw and five picks before the Giants nabbed Lincecum. Morrow never achieved the success as a starter than Lincecum did, but the Dodgers’ success in turning Morrow into a dominant, lights-out reliever could translate quite well to a guy like Lincecum. Maeda might be an even better comparison to the current version of Lincecum, and watching Maeda add three or four ticks to his fastball as a reliever last postseason could give the Dodgers some ideas about what they could do with the similarly slight-of-build Lincecum.
Finally, you have the Dodgers’ tendency to covet pitching depth. They brought in Tom Koehler this past offseason, who could very well be Morrow Part II but also has the ability to make a spot start if necessary. Other current or former starting pitchers who might see time in the Dodgers bullpen in 2018 include Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart, Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias.
The only list longer than “Dodgers current or former starting pitchers” might be “Dodgers current or former general managers,” and Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, and their team of executives seem to be on the same page with manager Dave Roberts (who himself played for both the Dodgers and Giants) when it comes to pitcher usage. The 2017 Dodgers were ahead of the curve on limiting their starters’ innings — Maeda was the only pitcher on the team who threw enough innings to qualify for the ERA title — and there’s little reason to believe that 2018 will be any different. When Kershaw is healthy, he will be allowed to throw as many innings as possible, but pretty much every other starter will be subject to pitch limits due either to youth, durability, or injury concerns — or, for almost all of them, some combination of the three. And if Kershaw ends up on the disabled list like he has in three of the past four seasons, that tendency becomes even more pronounced.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the Dodgers to have several relievers capable of throwing two or three innings, whether it’s in their active bullpen, on their 10-day disabled list, or on the Oklahoma City Shuttle.
So there are plenty of reasons why Lincecum to the Dodgers makes sense. When we look back on it in 20 years, Lincecum will always be a Giant in our minds. He won two Cy Youngs and three World Series and threw two no-hitters in a Giants uniform. But we’re not talking about his legacy — we’re talking about the 2018 season, and the Dodgers could really benefit from having Lincecum in their bullpen this year.
Oh, yeah, and he probably won’t cost much, which apparently matters, too.