Pitchers and catchers submitted their reports on Wednesday, and Madison Bumgarner's was brief and calming. He told several beat writers that he didn't mind being the lowest-paid starting pitcher on the team, and that he wouldn't push for an extension anytime soon. You didn't think Bumgarner pushing for an extension was going to be a story this spring, and apparently it won't be. How prescient of you.
However, this allows us to walk down hypothetical lane and start picking the fruits. What would a hypothetical deal look like? How much would the Giants have to give up to secure Bumgarner for even longer than his current contract?
First, we'll have to recap what Bumgarner is making. After this season, in which he'll earn $9.75 million, he has one more guaranteed year at $11.5 million. After that, the Giants have two $12 million options that they'll almost certainly exercise. He's essentially on a four year, $45.25 million contract. That's absurd.
Second, we'll have to gauge Bumgarner's worth. My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that he's worth a 100-year contract for $3 billion dollars, but the industry does not share this view. However, the Giants, grateful as they are for services rendered, wouldn't just tear up the contract and give Bumgarner market prices. Not only that, but it's not important what his market value will be in theoryland after this season. It's more important to figure out what he would make as a free agent after 2019, when he'll be 30, just like Price was when he signed his seven year, $217 million deal. After adjusting for expected inflation, it's reasonable to think Bumgarner would be worth seven years and $240 million.
That's if he were as successful entering his free agency as Price was. If he stayed healthy. If pitcher things didn't happen to him. The Giants would consider an extension because they would be scared he would be worth Price money after his current contract is up, and they have a vested interest in keeping a franchise icon. Bumgarner would consider an extension because he's a pitcher, and even supremely confident pitchers know what it means to throw a baseball for a living. No guarantees, ever.
So the Giants have the leverage. They have Bumgarner for three years after this season at setup-man money, and that's extraordinarily valuable. They can use that leverage to make sure he doesn't scoot after 2019. It's what the Rays did with Evan Longoria when he was a team-friendly deal, and it's what the Brewers did with Ryan Braun. Longoria's contract is probably a better comparison, so we'll focus on what happened there.
Longoria signed what was essentially a nine-year, $44.5 million contract (including team options) after he had 23 at-bats in the majors. It was a unique, gutsy deal for the Rays to make, and you can understand how it would be tempting for a 22-year-old to make sure he had the guaranteed fortune first, then worry about a bigger payday when he was 31. Longoria would have been a free agent after this season, and there would have been no way the Rays would have kept him. Absolutely no way, not even under the sentimental Alex Gordon plan, where everything in the market benefitted the Royals.
Knowing this, the Rays agreed to an extension after the 2012 season, when Longoria was an established star. The Rays wanted to make sure their franchise player didn't slip away four years later, so they took the small risk of guaranteeing his team options through 2016, and then they took the more substantial risk of guaranteeing him $100 million through his age-36 season after that. The money was still far less than he would have gotten on the open market, but he wasn't going to be on the open market for four more seasons. It wasn't overly cynical of Longoria to think those four seasons would change things considerably, and lookie here, he's been good-not-great for the last two seasons. He would still get a big deal after this season, but he's creeping closer and closer to being paid his fair market value.
Wonky enough for you yet? Good. Take a breather, you've earned it.
Longoria's deal kept him underpaid for the four years of his original deal, and then it added on six guaranteed years after that. Those six years were less than his market value at the time of the extension, so they were likely to be far less than his market value when each individual season actually arrived.
So, with all that written, the best I can do is guess. A hypothetical Bumgarner extension might look like this:
2016, age 26: $9.75 million
2017, age 27: $11.5 million
2018, age 28: $12 million
2019, age 29: $12 million
2020, age 30: $18 million
2021, age 31: $20 million
2022, age 32: $21 million
2023, age 33: $21 million
2024, age 34: $22 million
2025, age 35: $23 million
That would be a six year, $125 million deal after his current deal is up. Maybe the annual salaries would be increased for the coming seasons, but the overall guarantees would look roughly like that, I would guess. If Bumgarner has four more of the seasons we're used to, he would blow past that total in free agency. But that's four years away, and four years ago the best starting pitchers under 26 were Clayton Kershaw, Ricky Romero, Ian Kennedy, Gio Gonzalez, Justin Masterson, and Matt Harrison. There is exactly one of those pitchers who would get more than $125 million right now, with Gonzalez coming close.
You can see why it would be a risk worth exploring on both sides. If there's no extension, that's great. The Giants have Bumgarner for four more years, and they're not locked into a huge, potentially damaging commitment after that. But there's also the chance that Bumgarner will be great for the next four years, and the Giants will feel obligated to make an even more damaging commitment -- eight years and $270 million to keep him away from the Dodgers! -- that's even riskier.
I'd be surprised if the talks weren't already hot 'n' heavy. Bumgarner isn't demanding a new deal. But the timing is right for both sides to exchange some risk for reward. The Giants' risk would be they could pay a starting pitcher a lot of future money that he won't be worth. Bumgarner's risk is that he wouldn't get a chance at a ludicrous nine-figure deal in free agency. But if both sides want to see each other for the next decade, the reward might be there for everyone.