Tim Lincecum's grand, operatic Giants career is now a month-to-month, day-to-day scenario, which isn't a bad thing for anyone, actually.

It's the way this has to work -- to let Timmy be Timmy, the Giants have to give him every chance to leave as a free agent.

They can't push him, and they shouldn't push him. Lincecum hasn't been nearly good enough lately to deserve a full-court press from the Giants, and doing it might just nudge him away anyway.

So he might leave this winter. That's very possible.

I think everybody in the organization is braced for that chance and is buckled down for the fandom caterwauling that surely would follow.

San Francisco Giants’ starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) heads to the dugout after the end of the top of the first inning against the Los Angeles
San Francisco Giants' starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) heads to the dugout after the end of the top of the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at AT&T Park, Calif. on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Maybe it would be a healthy thing, to get Lincecum, 29, into a new situation after seven eventful San Francisco seasons and to let the Giants operate without the marketing mania going on simultaneously.

But if the Giants follow his live-for-the-day lead, this still could result in at least one more year of No. 55 whirling and emoting at AT&T Park, entertaining the masses and maybe even pitching well.

It really might be the best practical thing for both sides.

Why? Because Lincecum is fine with living in the moment, and he has no problem taking a short-term deal now in order to try to get his career back on a Cy Young level.

There is no guarantee he can find a more comfortable short-term situation than at AT&T Park, pitching beneath the two banners he helped to acquire.


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If Lincecum's career needs a quick fix, why not do it in the N.L. West (several more starts against the Padres!), with a familiar coaching staff and in front of fans who have loved him for years?

And then, if he turns it around in 2014, Lincecum can go for a killer deal.

Here is how that fits the Giants: They are rich, can pay short-term money and could use a veteran fourth or fifth starter behind Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and maybe Ryan Vogelsong.

But there is no way the Giants brass should be ready to go long term with Lincecum.

You want relationships that cater to long-term resolution? That is Buster Posey, Cain (most recently), Hunter Pence and eventually Bumgarner.

Lincecum's two Cy Young Awards were long ago, and his career arc is trending in a decidedly non-Cy way. He might even be a reliever before too long.

Still, Lincecum is such an icon that the Giants have to make the effort to bring him back; they can't look cold or too frugal.

As CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly reported recently, the Giants approached Lincecum with a two-year structure but now expect him to hit free agency.

And Jon Heyman of CBS reported over the weekend that, even after turning down the two-year offer, Lincecum is interested in a short-term deal.

Meanwhile, the Giants have given every indication that they will make the $14.1 million one-year qualifying offer after the World Series to secure draft-pick compensation if Lincecum leaves.

Lincecum might bounce the qualifying offer on principle, but I'm not sure a pitcher who put up a 5.18 ERA in 2012, followed by a 4.37 ERA in 2013 should expect much more.

There was a strong desire by the Giants and Lincecum fans to believe that No. 55 had figured it all out in the second half of 2013, but that isn't really borne out by the stats.

Lincecum had a 4.50 ERA in five July starts, including his epic, 148-pitch July 13 no-hitter in San Diego.

He had a 3.62 ERA in six August starts and a 4.32 ERA in five September starts.

His combined pre-All-Star break ERA: 4.26.

His combined post-All-Star break ERA: 4.54.

Average ERA of all National League pitchers: 3.73.

So I respect that Lincecum is fine going with short-term deals, because it shows confidence.

I just don't think he's worth more than $14.1 million when there are always much cheaper 4.20 ERA alternatives out there every year. Maybe the Giants can bump it up to $15 million because they know how much having him back would mean to their fans.

Maybe the Giants can even get to a one-year, $16 million offer -- or two years for $30-32 million -- and tell themselves that they are doing right by a player who has done so much for them ... and who probably can provide 10 or 12 more electric starts over the next few seasons, even if he also throws in 15 to 25 clunky ones.

Who would pay Lincecum more?

Maybe his hometown Seattle Mariners, but that's certainly not a winning situation. And won't the Mariners always be there for Lincecum, whether it's now or in a year or two?

The New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox? They're proven big payers, but Lincecum doesn't have a good track record against A.L. East lineups.

The Los Angeles Dodgers? Always possible, but if they want to overpay Lincecum for a 4.00-plus ERA, the Giants should be happy to let them do it.

Realistically, Lincecum and the Giants don't really need each other that much anymore. But maybe it won't take that much. Just enough for one more year of the Lincecum Opera.

Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.