Three years ago the Rays were ready to draft Tim Lincecum with the third pick in the 2006 MLB Draft. Later on in life in a radio interview, Andrew Friedman said the Rays were not only ready to draft Lincecum, but the two sides had discussed a contract. The reason the Rays targeted Lincecum is because they were under the impression that the player atop their draft board, Evan Longoria, would go second overall to the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies decided to draft Greg Reynolds instead of Longoria and the rest is history. Longoria is the reigning AL Rookie of the Year and a two time all star. Reynolds has pitched 62 innings of unimpressive baseball in his major league career, but at least they have Jason Hammel.
While Longoria has been a stud in the Rays lineup, Linceum has been arguably the best starting pitching in the National League, if not the entire major leagues for the past year and a half. The 2008 NL Cy Young Winner went 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA/2.62 FIP last season. The matching FIP/ERA just goes to show the "freak" is no fluke. In 2009, Lincecum has been even better. After last night's start he is 10-2 with a 2.33 ERA. His 1.99 FIP suggest that he has been even BETTER than his ERA. Lincecum is striking out 10.50 batters per nine while walking under two and a half. He has allowed just four home runs in 127.2 innings and has struck out at least eight batters in his last six starts.
It's hard to say the Rays made a bad choice with Longoria, but Lincecum has racked up a WAR of 16.1 over his career while Longoria has just crossed the 9.0 WAR threshold. Hindsight is 20-20 and remember, there is no guarantee that Lincecum would be as good as he is had he been pitching in the neutral Tropicana Field and facing better competition in the AL East.
We could play the "what if" game all we want, but the Rays got themselves a perennial AL MVP candidate at a position where there isn't much talent in the majors. Sure there are some fine third basemen in the game, but how many better than Longoria, if any? While it would be insane to have a rotation of James Shields, Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir, David Price and Tim Lincecum, the Rays still remain one of the more pitching rich organizations in the league without Timmy. In a perfect world, I would love the Rays to have both Longoria and Lincecum, but I'm still plenty happy with the way things turned out.
2006 MLB First Round WAR