A two-time National League Cy Young Award, Lincecum put in an arbitration request of a $21.5 million salary, the largest ever sought by a player not yet eligible for free agency. Roger Clemens asked for the largest amount in big-league arbitration history, $22 million in 2005.
The Giants have countered Lincecum's request with a record-high arbitration response of $17 million, far above the $14.25 million arbitration counter amount that the Yankees proposed to shortstop Derek Jeter in 2001.
Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans feels confident a deal can be worked out, given the relatively small amount of money that separates both sides.
"I'm overall optimistic that we'll find common ground without a hearing room," Evans said in a statement. "It's a process that begins long before today in terms of conversations about possible deals that work for both sides. That process has continued in a mutual fashion. At this point we haven't reached a conclusion."
The 27-year-old Lincecum is in essence seeking a raise of $10 million per season, having earned $13.1 million last year, part of a $23.2 million two-year pact that expired at the end of the 2011 campaign.
Lincecum does not appear open to a long-term deal, which the Giants want. He apparently would prefer a short-term deal in the event his market value increases substantially over the next year or two based upon individual and team performance. Fellow starter Matt Cain is also coveted by the Giants as a long-term signee.
"We know we'll at least have a one-year deal," Evans said. "I can't really predict where it will end up. In this process your two parties are always filing to try to come to a midpoint. The negotiation is really about the midpoint."
Evans hopes to have both star pitchers under contract before spring training, which begins next month. The question is whether that will occur before the first arbitration hearing is scheduled for Lincecum's case. Because both sides seem amenable and are close in terms of the type of dollars each is willing to accept or pay, Evans is optimistic that the Giants and Lincecum will nail down a new pact in the coming weeks.
"We're looking at different player contracts that give us an idea where we think Tim should be," Evans said. "There is not ever a player that's exactly like the one you have. Ultimately, there is only one guy that looks just like him."
Lincecum has been an All-Star selection in each of the last four seasons. However, his numbers took a decided downturn in 2011 when he recorded a career-low record of 13-14, the first sub-.500 season of his Major League tenure. Still, he had a decent 2.74 ERA.
But Lincecum's 2011 record is somewhat deceiving, as he failed to get strong offensive support in nearly one-fifth of the games he appeared in. In fact, his teammates failed to push across even one run in seven of those games, and had just one or two runs of support in 11 other games.
Lincecum's arbitration bid didn't keep the Giants from signing other players on Jan. 17, inking one-year agreements with relief pitcher Santiago Casilla and outfielders Nate Schierholtz and Melky Cabrera, who signed a $6 million deal.
The Giants, who missed the 2011 playoffs, will have a projected payroll for the upcoming 2012 season of approximately $130 million.
"Obviously the revenue that has been generated by our ownership and the support of our fans here makes the payroll level we have possible," Evans said. "We don't take that for granted. We know that with that kind of payroll comes responsibility and expectation."