After months of…well, the word “suspense” imbues the event with more significance than it deserves, so not that, but months of expectation, it has been announced that Tim Lincecum will have his showcase for prospective teams this coming Friday. Unsurprisingly, his goal is to land a spot in a starting rotation somewhere, and Jon Heyman lists the White Sox as one of the teams who will be in attendance. Context and need aside, the odds were in favor of the White Sox being on the guest list simply because most teams will have someone there.
“Lincecum is not found treasure, because the whole league has the damn map.” — Matt Adams
Tim Lincecum To The White Sox checks a lot of narrative boxes. The White Sox have been snatching up insurance for the starting rotation wherever they can find it of late–e.g. Miguel Gonzalez and Jacob Turner. They also have a reputation of being an organization that gets the most out of its pitchers and keeps them healthy, which makes them an attractive destination for players trying to rebuild their value–e.g. Mat Latos. You can even throw in the whole “Lincecum has a weird delivery and the White Sox seem to care about that less than everybody else!” thing too, if you like. Couple these factors with reasons to be worried about Latos, that John Danks seems to be Completely Done Forever, and that the team looks like a playoff contender and it’s not hard to see a fit here.
For my part, however, I am not really interested. The absolute best case scenario is that every other organization but the White Sox sees Lincecum– last seen averaging 88mph on his fastball– as done, but Don Cooper catches something they don’t, the Sox snag him on a minor league deal and he has some sort of revival. That is extraordinarily unlikely. On the other hand, if Lincecum does look good, he’s going to cost money, as there will be multiple suitors for his services, and even then there will be a lot of risk. Maybe they are willing to give him guaranteed major league money and nobody else is…but if you’re a White Sox fan, wouldn’t that kind of scare you? Maaaaaaaaaybe Lincecum looks pretty good, but takes less from the White Sox because he thinks they’ll help him perform better than other teams will? Perhaps that is the only semi-realistic scenario where adding Lincecum makes sense.
The thing is, for all that the back of the rotation makes me anxious, there are fallback options. Jacob Turner, Erik Johnson, and Miguel Gonzalez are all in Charlotte ready to be called in as reinforcements. None of those options are exciting and nor should they be. We are talking about the sixth, seventh, and eighth starters in the organization whom the White Sox put behind Latos and Danks to start the year for a variety of reasons. However, they are also credible depth. Gonzalez has had success at the major league level and looked serviceable against a terrifying Blue Jays lineup in his spot start. It could be that all three of these guys bomb out, but you can deploy them with a straight face, and it is not a crazy idea that one or more of them might stick in the modest role they would be asked to fill.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the White Sox have basically been running a “platoon” of Jerry Sands and Avisail Garcia at DH, and while it has somehow been adequate it would strike me as incorrect to prioritize adding depth to the rotation ahead of adding more offense. It is only the beginning of May, but we are also seeing the beginning of trade speculation, and there are some real impact bats out there who could make a gigantic difference for a team like the White Sox. Having more financial flexibility may make it possible to secure the services of one of those bats while reducing the prospect price of the deal. I am more confident that Ryan Braun would be massive upgrade for this club than Tim Lincecum would be, both due to the caliber of the players involved, and the in-house resources that would otherwise be devoted to solving the problem. Gonzalez, Johnson, and Turner aren’t thrilling, but they’re much better than…what, Jason Coats? Matt Davidson? Because that’s kind of it as far as Charlotte goes.
If the White Sox can bolster their rotation without it compromising their ability to add a bat, then hey, go for it. But given this organization’s spending history, it seems like an either-or proposition at the moment, and I know which one I would prefer to add.