Phillies nuggets: Club should watch Tim Lincecum throw Friday

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By: Tim Kelly, managing editor

Jon Heyman of the MLB Network says that on Friday afternoon two-time Cy Young award-winner Tim Lincecum will hold a showcase for interested teams to scout him. Heyman and other outlets have suggested that more than half the league will be at the showcase. 

To this point, the Philadelphia Phillies aren't one of the teams that's been reported among those expected to watch Lincecum. If they don't plan on watching Lincecum, that's a mistake. 

That isn't to say that Lincecum, who will be 32 in June, is going to return to the form that saw him accumulate 14.8 WAR between 2008 and 2009 (per Fangraphs). But signing him could serve a few purposes. 

The first purpose, regardless of his production, would be to eat innings for the team. Jeremy Hellickson may be traded at some point this summer. The Phillies have also suggested that they will limit the innings of their young starters — Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquz and Jerad Eickhoff. If both of those things transpire, the Phillies will have traded their Opening Day starter and have three-fifths of the rest of their rotation either on innings restrictions or altogether shut down by September. 

On top of that, Charlie Morton's season-ending injury has forced the Phillies to already call up one of their minor league options in Adam Morgan. The Phillies still have other options like David Buchanan and Alec Ascher in their farm system, but having someone like Lincecum, at the very least, would give the team another option to pitch late in the season. 

Another interesting aspect of Lincecum's comeback could be his future. Lincecum has enough interest that he is going to get a deal that gives him a chance to be a starting pitcher in 2016. However, many have long thought that Lincecum's future may be as a back-end reliever. 

In 2007 and 2008, Lincecum had an average fastball velocity of 93.8 (per Fangraphs). However, in 2015, Lincecum's average fastball velocity, which had been on a gradual decline, bottomed out at 87.5, with his fastball becoming his second most used pitch for the first time in his career (per Fangraphs). If Lincecum, who had off-season hip surgery, were to recover some of that velocity, not only could it make him more effective as a starter, but if he doesn't rebound as a starter, it may allow him to be an effective late-inning reliever. 

If Lincecum pitched for the Phillies in 2016 and struggled as a starter, which is what he's done with the San Francisco Giants for a majority of the past four seasons, it's possible that he would be willing to consider a transition to the bullpen. The Phillies, who lack late-inning arms, would seem to be in a better position to sign Lincecum as a reliever for the 2017 team, if he eats innings for them as a starter in 2016. They would at least have the chance to re-sign him before he became a free-agent. 

Perhaps the most intriguing reason to sign Lincecum would be for the chance to potentially flip him at the trade deadline if he were to perform well. Though that idea would be contingent on Lincecum getting hot rather quickly after signing with the team — especially when you consider that he will likely have a minor league stint before making his 2016 debut, it probably would be a good enough reason for Lincecum not to sign with the Phillies. If more than half the teams in the league are willing to watch Lincecum throw, at least a handful of contenders will probably be willing to offer him a deal more attractive than the Phillies could. But that doesn't mean the Phillies shouldn't at least watch Lincecum throw Friday, and offer him a deal if they are impressed by what he displays in his showcase. 

The Nuggets

  • Jeanmar Gomez isn't going to be the Phillies' long-term closer and the team's long-term closer probably isn't currently on the major league roster, but both Gomez and Hector Neris look as though they could be key cogs in the team's bullpen for some time to come. 
  • Last night was a good night for the Phillies' future. While Aaron Nola had his second consecutive dominant seven-inning performance, Jake Thompson tossed seven impressive innings for the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Nick Williams hit a walk-off home run to win the game. 
  • As noted on Phillies post-game live on Comcast SportsNet last night, Ryan Howard has now played in St. Louis in 36 games and has 12 home runs and 40 RBIs. 
  • We discussed the slightly altered font on the Phillies' jerseys earlier this year. The conclusion that I've come to is that the font looks good on the team's home pinstriped jersey, cream home alternate and red home alternate, but is noticeably cartoony looking on the grey road jerseys. And that's not a compliment. 

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