The San Francisco Giants are set to begin reshaping their organization this offseason under new General Manager Farhan Zaidi. The team doesn’t have much in the way of attractive trade chips, but one player that Zaidi and company will surely be seeking a large return for is longtime ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner. According to a report from Jon Paul Morosi of MLB.com, the Giants are willing to engage other teams about a potential Bumgarner deal, and the Milwaukee Brewers are believed to be among the teams that have already expressed preliminary interest.
According to Morosi, the Brewers are joined by the Philadelphia Phillies as teams who have recently had dialogue with the Giants about MadBum. The Braves also reached out to San Francisco earlier in the offseason, according to the report, but Morosi’s sources indicate that the talks with Atlanta are no longer active and that there is no real optimism that a deal with that org gets done.
Bumgarner, who turned 29 this past August, has spent the better part of the last decade as one of the top pitchers in the majors. The former first-round pick has logged 1,638.1 innings across 255 appearances, all with the Giants, while pitching to a 3.03 ERA with an 87 FIP- and a sparkling 70 DRA-. And of course his postseason heroics are the stuff of legend; in 102.1 playoffs innings, Bumgarner has posted a 2.11 ERA and 0.899 WHIP while helping the Giants capture World Series championships in 2010, 2012, and 2014. He was named both the NLCS MVP and World Series MVP during that 2014 run.
Bumgarner was the pillar of durability from 2011-2016, making at least 31 starts and pitching no fewer than 200 innings for six straight seasons. The last two campaigns, however, have been marred by physical issues. There was the infamous dirt bike accident that cost him several months with shoulder and rib injuries in 2017, then in 2018 he was hit by a line drive during his final scheduled Spring Training outing and suffered a broken pinky that cost him a good chunk of the season.
MadBum has been limited to 38 starts and 240.2 innings total during 2017-18, and while he has prevented runs at a terrific rate in that time, posting a 3.29 ERA, many of his peripheral numbers have backed up. He first started losing velocity in 2016 and has averaged 91.4 MPH the last two years, down more than a mile-per-hour from his prime years with San Fran. Batters hit .299 and slugged .541 against his four-seam in 2018. His swinging strike rate has declined in each of the past two seasons, with his 9.2% rate in 2018 representing his lowest total since 2012. As a result, his strikeout rate (19.8%) dipped below 20% for the first time since 2010, and he also posted the highest walk rate of his career at 2.98 BB/9. Batters have hit him hard increasingly more often since the start of 2017, culminating in a career-worst 41.6% hard contact rate allowed in 2018, more than 12 points worse than his career average. Rather than an ace, FIP- (101) thinks that Bumgarner has been a league-average starter (or maybe even a shade worse) over the last two years dating back to the beginning of the 2017 season, and DRA- (99) largely agreed with that valuation in 2018.
Bumgarner does still possess an all-world cutter, which is a pitch that Milwaukee’s front office favors heavily. He’ll also pitch at age 29 for most of next season and placing him on a contender, rather than a Giants team that has won 64 and 73 games the past two years, could help to bring the best out of Bumgarner once again. He is entering the final option year of the team-friendly extension he signed with the Giants back in 2013 and will earn only $12 mil in 2019 before hitting the open market next offseason. He’ll surely be hoping for a strong walk year before reaching free agency for the first time in his career.
Complicating matters is the fact that according to Morosi, Zaidi and the Giants will likely be seeking at least one young, top-end pitcher in any potential Bumgarner trade. Morosi notes that Zaidi got a first-hand look at both Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes during the NLCS while he was still with the Dodgers, and suggests that either one of those hurlers would fit the profile that the Giants are looking for. Both Woodruff and Burnes played integral roles for Milwaukee down the stretch and into the playoffs and are seen as key pieces for the pitching staff moving forward. It remains to be seen whether or not Slingin’ David Stearns would be willing to put together an enticing package of prospects, led by one his talented young right-handers, for a one-year rental of Madison Bumgarner.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus