FS Faux Winter Meetings: Cubs deal Luis Valbuena to Giants


In the ongoing FanSided Faux Winter Meetings, one of the first moves made by the Chicago Cubs’ front office included dealing utility infielder Luis Valbuena to the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants in exchange for two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who has one year remaining on the two-year pact he signed last winter.

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Valbuena, 28, was the Cubs’ primary third baseman in 2014, providing one of the best bats in the lineup outside of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. With a .249/.341/.435 line, his numbers don’t appear to be overwhelming in any sense of the word, but he added a career-high 16 home runs and drove in 51 runs. By comparison, free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval had a slash line of  .279/.324/.415 – and is said to be weighing a trio of five-year, $90 million contract offers this winter from the Giants, Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres.

A career .229 hitter, his offensive breakout season in 2014 led to his stock soaring across the league, prompting interest from the Giants in the Faux Winter Meetings. Looking to add impact pitching, the Cubs agreed to flip their versatile infielder for Lincecum, who is just three seasons removed from a 2.75 ERA and an eighth-place finish in the NL Cy Young voting.

His struggles, however, are well-documented by this point. After winning the league’s top pitching honors in back-to-back years in 2008 and 2009, the now-30-year-old Lincecum has tailed off in terms of production. Last season, the first of a two-year, $35 million deal, the right-hander went 12-9 with a 4.79 ERA. His 4.31 FIP indicated he was slightly better than his earned run average may indicate, although his 7.9 SO/9 was the lowest of his big league career.

In the deal, Chicago is hoping a change of scenery can help the former Giants ace regain some of his former luster. Should he bounce back, at the conclusion of the 2015 campaign, an extension would be in the cards. However, if he struggles still – he will hit free agency. So, while many will criticize the move, the team’s front office team is using the fact that he has just one year of team control left to try and minimize any long-term risk; something that has been a major issue with Edwin Jackson, who signed just a four-year deal, but has been among the league’s worst starters during that stretch.

In his big league career at Wrigley Field, Lincecum is 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA across six starts. The four-time All-Star has allowed just 11 earned runs across 39 2/3 innings of work, pitching to the tune of a 1.034 WHIP and 3.14 SO/BB ratio.