Lincecum, Giants moving toward deal

Tim Lincecum and the Giants are edging closer to a contract agreement that would enable the parties to avoid a potentially divisive salary arbitration hearing.

Industry sources confirmed Friday that negotiations between the club and Lincecum have progressed since Tuesday, when they exchanged proposed figures for one-year contracts. Lincecum requested $21.5 million, $500,000 short of the record amount Houston’s Roger Clemens sought in 2005. The Giants countered with $17 million, the largest arbitration offer a team ever has made.

It was not known whether the sides were discussing a one-year contract, which Lincecum said last season he’d prefer, or a multiyear deal, such as the two-year, $23 million pact he agreed to minutes before he and the Giants were scheduled to launch an arbitration hearing last year.

Lincecum, winner of two National League Cy Young Awards and a four-time All-Star, is likely to become the highest-paid Giant for 2012. Teams and arbitration-eligible players tend to split the difference between the figures they respectively submit. Lincecum’s midpoint of $19.25 million would exceed the $19 million that left-hander Barry Zito is slated to earn this year.

Lincecum became the only unsigned arbitration-eligible Giant when right-hander Sergio Romo agreed to a one-year, $1.575 million deal. That represented a 250 percent increase from Romo’s 2011 wage of $450,000. Since Romo filed for $1.75 million and the Giants offered $1.3 million, he received slightly more than the midpoint figure of $1.525 million.

After beginning the offseason with 13 arbitration-eligible players, San Francisco has come to terms with six of them since Monday: Romo, fellow right-hander Santiago Casilla, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and outfielders Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan and Nate Schierholtz.

Romo, who turns 29 on March 4, earned his raise by establishing himself as one of baseball’s top setup relievers. He finished 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 65 appearances. Control remained Romo’s hallmark, as he struck out 70 and walked just five in 48 innings for a Major League-best 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That’s the best ratio among relievers pitching at least 45 innings since Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley recorded a 18.25-to-1 mark in 1990.

“I feel like I’ve built a pretty decent name for myself and I want to keep progressing,” Romo said. “I want to do more and I can do more.”

Romo pitched the equivalent of a perfect game by retiring 31 consecutive batters over a 15-game span from July 4-Aug. 6. While right-handers hit .150 off him, he was no slouch against left-handers, whom he limited to a .229 average.

– Chris Haft

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