Fantasy Baseball 2013: Impact of a Tim Lincecum-Jacoby Ellsbury Trade


Tim Lincecum prepares for a launch. Image courtesy of flickr.

If you love the Hot Stove season as much as I do, you should probably get used to the names of Jacoby Ellsbury and Tim Lincecum, because you may be hearing them quite a bit over the next few months.

From a fantasy perspective, it’s hard to imagine two more disappointing players in 2012. In our Draft Kit, we projected Lincecum as the sixth best starting pitcher and 31st best overall player, which pales in comparison to Ellsbury. Jacoby was our projected as our second best outfielder  (behind only Matt Kemp) and 11th best overall player. I actually predicted that Ellsbury would be the Fantasy MVP in 2012, and later had to eat those very words.

In light of the poor seasons, John Tomase of the Boston Herald explored the idea of the Red Sox and Giants swapping the two big names. In the end, he made the following point about how likely (or unlikely) the deal is.

"There are no indications that either team is considering such a move, but with the first logs tossed on the hot stove fire, Ellsbury for Lincecum at least makes for an interesting debate."

Indeed it does make for an interesting debate. So, just for fun let’s say that this trade happens. What kind of impact would these players have on your fantasy teams in their new homes?

Tim Lincecum on the Red Sox

My initial instinct would be to call this a bad move for fantasy owners of “The Freak.” Something I have said consistently is that the National League West is a great division for pitchers. Yes, Chase Field and Coors Field are live yards, but Petco Park, Dodger Stadium, and San Francisco’s AT&T Park are friendly to pitchers. The American League East features five parks that play small and generally has much better hitters, so you get away with a lot less there.


Sure, a fly ball is more likely to do serious damage at Fenway Park than it is at AT&T Park, but even in his worst season of 2012, Lincecum still struck out more than one batter an inning. If hitters can’t get their bat on the ball, it doesn’t matter how big or small the stadium is.

While I think the change from a pitcher’s park to a hitter’s park would be handled okay, there are a few other question marks.

  1. New Coaches: Keep something in mind. The Giants are one of the more stable organizations in the league. Since Lincecum made his Major League debut in 2007, Bruce Bochy has been his only manager, Dave Righetti has been his only pitching coach, and Mark Gardner has been his only bullpen coach. With all due respect to John Farrell, there is no guarantee that Lincecum would respond that well to new guidance.
  2. Change of Scenery: I’m not talking about ballparks, but the difference between Boston andSan Francisco. Lincecum is from Washington State, which has a cool climate in the summer. Similar things can be said about San Francisco. As a person who lives in the Bay Area and has spent about a week in each of the last two summers in Boston, I can tell you that it’s a much different experience. That may not mean anything, but it’s something to consider.
  3. Different fanbase: This may seem funny to say considering the Giants have won two World Series titles since the Red Sox last made the playoffs, but if the expectations in Boston aren’t higher, the fans are certainly more animated. Lincecum has a perfect San Francisco attitude and while terrific seasons from Matt Cain and Buster Posey may challenge this, Lincecum is still in many ways the face of the franchise. When he debuted, the team was all about hitting, specifically getting Barry Bonds his records. Now, a few years later, it’s a pitching oriented team and Lincecum’s two Cy Young Awards have a lot to do with that. He hasn’t built up good graces in Boston, so they won’t be as patient. Frankly, they shouldn’t be.

Wherever Lincecum pitches in 2012, a big positive is that he’s in a contract year and will have a lot to prove. A good year in 2013 will all but erase 2012 when it comes time to negotiate a new deal, as one poor season can hardly wipe out what would be six strong ones. A bad year in 2013 and Lincecum will be a small pitcher with a funky delivery who will be turning 30 in the 2014 season who just had two bad years. What happens in 2013 with Lincecum could literally be tens of millions of dollars. He’ll be motivated to get right this offseason and be strong next year, wherever he is.

On balance, I would say that a move to Boston would hurt his draft stock.

But ultimately, Lincecum’s fantasy value comes down to one question. Do you think his mechanical problems of 2012 will be fixed by 2013? I actually do. The uncertainty of Boston and difference in home parks makes me believe he’ll be better in San Francisco. Plus, barring some significant changes, the Giants should win more games than Boston, which obviously would reflect well on the personal records of their pitchers. But I think Lincecum will have a fine year in either uniform. I still call him a Top-15 starting pitcher.

As for the other part of this deal…

Jacoby Ellsbury on the Giants

So much of this depends on Ellsbury’s health. While 2011 was a great year, it was sandwiched between two seasons where Ellsbury failed to play 100 combined games. That is a real concern. But for a second, let’s assume that Ellsbury has a relatively healthy season. He would likely be replacing Angel Pagan as both the center fielder and lead-off man for the Giants. If Ellsbury is on the field, he’ll at least be as good in 2013 as Pagan was in 2012. Take a look at what Pagan did.


Actually, if he stays on the field, Ellsbury would do better than that likely across the board. But think about everything I said about Lincecum pitching in the AL East. The Parks are more friendly to the hitters and the hitters are better. In the National League West, not only are the parks more geared to pitchers, but the pitchers are also much better. Granted, a few of those pitchers would be Ellsbury’s teammates, but on balance, he’d be facing tougher arms.

So, while he’d do better than Pagan’s numbers above, I don’t think he’d get anywhere near these totals:


In case you were wondering, those were Ellsbury’s 2011 totals. You never know what free agency will bring, especially but he wouldn’t be leading off for hitters like Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis, who were all teammates of Ellsbury in 2011. That’s not a knock on  the Giants (remember, they are my favorite team and the reigning World Series Champions), but their lineup is not that deep. Then again, he wouldn’t be leading off for those players in Boston, either.

AT&T park is also not especially kind to lefties, at least when it comes to hitting the long ball. Yes, like Fenway it has a very short right field fence, and jets out quickly, Ellsbury will be used to that. But the wall in San Francisco turns homers into doubles, and the prevailing wind blows the ball right to the 421-foot marker in right-center field, which balls rarely ever fly over.

Again, that doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t be productive at all in San Francisco. Also remember that the 2013 Red Sox will look a lot different than the 2011 version did. Pagan was a fine fantasy player in 2012 and again, I think Ellsbury would be better pretty much across the board. If he’s healthy, he’d be a slightly better fantasy player in San Francisco than Boston, but wouldn’t be anywhere near 2011. Even in a good year, Ellsbury wouldn’t be a Top-10 fantasy outfielder in San Francisco. As a Giants fan, I wouldn’t mind seeing Ellsbury here (though the injuries do scare me), but he wouldn’t be the same fantasy beast that he’s been in the past.

Let’s take a look at some numbers.

2013 Projection range for Lincecum 

Best Case Scenario (Red Sox) 220174666817-82382.781.09
Best Case Scenario (Giants)226178626619-62412.621.06
Worst Case Scenario (Red Sox)177188 79 1039-16 175 5.28 1.51
Worst Case Scenario (Giants)1801877910411-171785.201.48
Actual Projections (Red Sox)202171737914-92093.521.21
Actual Projections (Giants)209172757116-82303.061.18

2013 Projection range for Ellsbury 

Best Case Scenario (Giants)633201101167434.318
Best Case Scenario (Red Sox)64620794186936.320
Worst Case Scenario (Giants)4151096373913.263
Worst Case Scenario (Red Sox)4271145893518.267
Actual Projections (Giants)57317498146632.304
Actual Projections (Red Sox)58518187175835.309

Remember, these could change with free agent moves and trades, but let’s say the teams remain similar to what we saw in 2012. What do you think? Let’s say this trade happens. What kind of fantasy value would Lincecum and Ellsbury have?