Ever since he burst onto the scene as a rookie contributor for a San Francisco Giants team that won their first World Series title in 56 years in 2010, Madison Bumgarner has become one of the faces of the franchise in the Bay Area.
In 11 years with the Giants–including this season–Bumgarner has pitched to the tune of a 3.08 ERA, with 113 wins against 89 losses. But more importantly, Bumgarner has been utterly tremendous in the playoffs, and especially in the World Series.
The imposing left-hander has posted a 2.11 postseason ERA in 16 games, with an 8-3 record to boot. In five World Series games, Bumgarner has a ridiculous 0.25 ERA and an undefeated record. Of course, he also lays claim to arguably the greatest pitching performance ever in a World Series in San Francisco’s seven-game defeat of the Kansas City Royals in 2014.
Bumgarner won each of his two starts, then pitched five innings in relief in Game 7, earning the save in the process. For the series, Bumgarner tossed 21 innings and allowed just a single run while also walking only one batter.
His dominance made Bumgarner an icon in the San Francisco and cinched the notion that he was one of the best pitchers of this generation. Five years later, it is time for the Giants to send him away.
As long as he has been around the game, Bumgarner is only turning 30 in August. But the Giants are in no position to contend anytime soon, and the big left-hander is in the final year of his contract. They need to acquire some assets before the trade deadline, or risk throwing the franchise into a state of flux.
Market may be saturated with pitchers
One of the reasons that the Giants need to show a little bit of urgency in their negotiations with opposing teams is that the trade market could very well be littered with starting pitching talent.
Start with the Toronto Blue Jays, who had shopped Marcus Stroman this past winter and figure to do the same at the trade deadline. Stroman has one more year of arbitration in 2020, making him a fairly controllable asset.
Plus, he is having one of the finest seasons of his career thus far, and his gritty nature might appeal to teams just as Bumgarner’s hard-nosed attitude and veteran leadership should prove to be a bonus for any team that might look to acquire him.
Then of course, there is the ever-present question of what the Cleveland Indians will do prior to the trade deadline. The Dolan family has made it clear that they do not want to continue to pump funds into the team’s payroll, and the Indians need to secure Francisco Lindor’s future while they still have that opportunity.
The financial situation, paired with the fact that the Indians are on the outside looking in when it comes to the American League playoff picture, could make them sellers prior to the July 31 trade deadline. If this is the case, guys like Trevor Bauer could very well be on the move.
Finally, the surprising struggles of the Washington Nationals may force Mike Rizzo and co. to make some drastic moves, potentially moving Max Scherzer in the process.
All of this is to say that there may be a number of options available for teams that are openly looking to add to their starting rotation.
Bumgarner might be the most notable starter that could be on the move as of right now, but that could all change very quickly in the next few weeks. The Giants risk not maximizing Bumgarner’s value if they refuse to engage in trade discussions. And given that he will be a free agent after this season, they run the risk that he might sign elsewhere in the winter.
Too many needs
The Giants have plenty of needs at the big-league level…including in the starting rotation. San Francisco ranks dead-last in the majors in terms of starting pitching fWAR. So then, whey would they trade their best starting pitcher?
San Francisco has a pretty mediocre farm system, and most of their top prospects are position players anyway. The Giants need to stockpile their pitching prospects, especially given that Shaun Anderson has already been promoted to the MLB club. What better way to get those prospects than by dangling one of the best pitchers of this generation?
Unfortunately for Giants fans, they also rank dead-last in outfield fWAR. Much like the Indians, the Giants have repeatedly failed to address their outfield needs over the years, and they had to scramble just to acquire the likes of Gerardo Parra and Kevin Pillar. It has not worked.
The Giants have just one outfield prospect ranked in the top 100, although 2019 draft pick Hunter Bishop could certainly rise through the rankings. Still, San Francisco would do well to compliment Bishop’s arrival by adding another high-level outfield prospect.
So with all of this firmly in mind, who might make for a good trade partner for the Giants should they elect to trade Bumgarner?
Which contender will make the move?
Luckily, the Giants will have no shortage of options in the trade market, and they almost certainly will have the opportunity to acquire both a top outfield prospect and pitching prospect from whichever team they choose to do business with.
The New York Yankees certainly could use more pitching. Domingo German is the latest injury, while left-handers C.C. Sabathia and James Paxton have been slowed by shoulder issues. Meanwhile, Luis Severino’s timeline remains unclear.
Meanwhile, the Bronx Bombers have a top 50 outfield prospect in Estevan Florial, and a wealth of pitching prospects–including Jonathan Loaisiga, who looked decent in big-league action before hitting the Injured List–that might appeal to the Giants.
The Minnesota Twins struck out on Dallas Keuchel, but they might still be in the market for Bumgarner given that they have the look (and record) of one of the best teams in baseball.
Would they be willing to give up Alex Kiriloff, one of the best outfield prospects in the game? What about right-hander Brusdar Graterol? The Twins are already loaded in the outfield, and they may be looking to buy high on Bumgarner if they think they become World Series contenders and have the ability to sign him to a long-term deal.
Another interesting team to watch would be the Milwaukee Brewers. Sure, Bumgarner included them on his “no-trade list” (the Yankees were also on this list), but that might just be used to force the Giants into giving him a payout.
The Brewers came within just a single game of reaching the World Series in 2018, so there is no reason to think that they would not also be willing to buy high in the pursuit of a World Series championship.
Aside from Zach Davies, Milwaukee’s starting rotation has been totally underwhelming, and Gio Gonzalez has been battling injuries. They need another impact arm in the rotation especially from that side of the rubber.
Adding Bumgarner could be a move eerily similar to the one they orchestrated for C.C. Sabathia in 2008, a deal that helped them make a miraculous run to the playoffs.
If the Brewers would be willing to part with top prospect Keston Hiura and even the likes of Brandon Woodruff or Corbin Burnes (who has struggled this season but still has excellent stuff), it would be a hard deal for San Francisco to pass up.
End of an era
Madison Bumgarner truly defined an era where the San Francisco Giants won three World Series championships in a span of five years. He has arguably been the most identifiable figure for a franchise that has lacked a true star since the days of Barry Bonds.
And yet, it is time to let go of the “MadBum” era and build for the future. As loyal as the Giants have been to the likes of Buster Posey, they cannot afford to potentially sacrifice their future merely out of loyalty.
Expect Bumgarner’s name to come up quite a lot in the next five-plus weeks as the hot stove reaches a boiling point.