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What is the market for Madison Bumgarner?

Everybody needs pitching, but does everybody need this pitcher?

San Francisco Giants v New York Mets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

“Willing to engage with other teams about the possibility of dealing their ace” is not the same as “ready to trade Madison Bumgarner”, but after last night’s report from Jon Morosi, it’s clear that we’re less likely to see Madison Bumgarner in a Giants uniform on Opening Day than ever before.

The last time Morosi reported on the Giants using other industry sources that had knowledge of the Giants’ plans was during the search for their President of Baseball Operations, which led to the hiring of Farhan Zaidi. A little over one week passed between his first report and the team’s official announcement, and if that general timeline plays out here with his Bumgarner report, then we might see a big move before the Winter Meetings or right at the very start.

That’s idle speculation, but these things can tend to move quickly, especially once news gets out. The Giants might also be looking to create a distraction in the wake of owner Charles Johnson’s latest political connection to racist ideology and the ensuing calls for a boycott. Maybe they’ve attempted to do that by leaking information to Morosi in the first place or maybe they’re going to jump at this opportunity to get something done soon.

In any case, The Hunt For Red Ass October has begun.

Following the Mariners’ trade of James Paxton last week, I took a look at how that deal shaped Bumgarner’s potential market.

For some people, a return of any kind is a huge win. For others, nothing short of legacy players in return for a legacy player will suffice. Can the reality actually fall somewhere in between?

I wasn’t too optimistic about what the team might get back in trade, and I think that’s still the case. Let’s take a look at the two teams mentioned in last night’s report and see if we can piece together a potential market.

Let’s start with the teams mentioned in Morosi’s report:


He added that Adonis Medina was a player they considered trading to Baltimore in July for Manny Machado and that Zach Eflin was a recent figure in the team’s trade talks with Arizona about Paul Goldschmidt. Does that mean the Phillies might move either of them for Madison Bumgarner?

Medina is the Phillies’ #3 prospect and #64 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospects list, a 21-year old who struck out 123 in 111.1 innings of A-ball in 2018. He’s a quality arm projected to make it to the big leagues in 2019, and this would be the sort of return I think we could all get behind.

Thing is, the Phillies were all set to acquire Paul Goldschmidt until they insisted Carlos Santana and his $40+ million remaining be included in the deal. No reason to see why that can’t happen here, and I think the $20 million AAV is enough of an impediment to kill this deal, as it did with Goldschmidt. The Giants certainly need a player like Santana, but adding him just to move Bumgarner and add a prospect seems like overkill.

Then again, Zaidi did some version of this right after he became GM, moving Matt Kemp and his big salary for a haul from the Padres. He also traded a lot with the Phillies in that first offseason.

Likelihood of a deal: 1.5 Snotrockets


It would be an odd fit on a surface level because Milwaukee was the site of Bumgarner’s most recent embarrassment, getting into a verbal tussle with Ryan Braun that led to Jonathan Schoop hitting a grand slam off of him. Now, all that goes away with winning, but it seems like City Bro and Country Bro don’t mix in this particular case, but if the Brewers are really looking into it — “The Brewers and Phillies are among the teams that have had at least preliminary dialogue about trading for Bumgarner, sources say.” — then they’re obviously not taking issue there.

And, who knows, maybe Braun comes back to the Giants in the deal. There have been rumors over the years of the Brewers and Dodgers talking about Braun in a potential trade.

Morosi name-checked Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff as two possibilities, and I think that’s really just idle speculation. They’re both slated for the Brewers’ rotation, and while trading either to get Bumgarner as an upgrade makes sense, they’d only get him for one season, and their rotation after next season projects to be a bit iffier without two cost-controlled, young pitchers, so this would lead me to believe they’re less inclined to trade either of them.

Per the ol’ MLB Pipeline, the top 7 prospects in the Brewers’ system are all position players, and that list doesn’t include power-hitting outfielder Domingo Santana (who’s 26 and has 1328 MLB plate appearances already, but spent most of the year in Triple-A). Bumgarner for Santana might not be the best deal, but it would still be a good one.

Likelihood of a deal: 3 Snotrockets


Morosi tossed some cold water on this by saying, “But there’s no momentum for Bumgarner to be dealt to the Braves, who are beloved by many fans in his home state of North Carolina”, but I think that’s just a matter of perspective. Sure, there’s no momentum now, but it makes sense. Bumgarner’s a big-ticket draw, the Braves need a quality starting pitcher to fill out their rotation.

The top 4 players in the Braves’ system (per Pipeline) are all pitchers: Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright, Ian Anderson, and Touki Touissant. They’re also all ranked on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list (all four are in the 20-40 range). About a month ago, Eno Sarris threw out the name Bryse Wilson (their #9 prospect and 96th on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100), another interesting but less ML-ready pitcher. I still think a deal like that is possible. I don’t think it makes sense to take the Braves off the board here.

Likelihood of a deal: 2 Snotrockets

Now let’s factor in the following to get the rest of the list:

  1. World Series heroes on a one-year deal have no value to rebuilding/low payroll teams, so they’re out. No Orioles, Rangers, Royals, White Sox, Tigers, Blue Jays, Mets, Pirates, Reds, or Marlins.
  2. The Rays would seemingly be a wild card here, but I think they’re committed to not spending a lot on their roster, even if it improves them. $12 million would be about 16% of their payroll. There’s not enough surplus value with Bumgarner. More on that later.
  3. I doubt Zaidi trades with an NL West team in the case of Bumgarner. Matt Kemp had a big salary and was seen as being in his decline and the Padres weren’t going anywhere. You could squint and see the thinking behind that. It makes less sense to do that with Bumgarner and it would compound the PR move that trading him will create anyway. Let’s assume he’s not a Dodger or Diamondback by the end of December.

Excluding all of these teams and the three mentioned above, that leaves the Yankees, Red Sox, Clevelands, Twins, Astros, A’s, Mariners, Angels, Nationals, Cubs, and Cardinals.


The Yankees just unloaded their best prospect for two years of team control for James Paxton, who is projected to be much better than Bumgarner in 2019. Given the lack of team control and minimal surplus value, I think they’re out on him or the Giants could get something better in return from another team.

Likelihood of a deal: 0 Snotrockets

Red Sox

Unless they re-sign Nathan Eovaldi, they’ll need someone to replace Nathan Eovaldi. The Red Sox have plenty of money under the CBT threshold to add Bumgarner’s entire salary and still make other moves, they have no truly bad contracts they’d look to dump. Thing is, they don’t really have much in their farm system, at least from an industry consensus perspective. Maybe there are depth gems that Giants’ scouts and Farhan Zaidi alike find interesting. A cursory glance makes a deal with Boston just good for Boston.

Likelihood: 1 Snotrocket


I know, I know, they’re shedding payroll, but that doesn’t mean they’re tanking. They won’t move Edwin Encarncion’s $20 million for Madison Bumgarner’s $12 million and it’s doubtful they’d move Trevor Bauer (entering arbitration) for the same, too. Maybe the Giants could sweeten the deal, though, by including Will Smith or Tony Watson. Cleveland did just lose Cody Allen and Andrew Miller. The Giants could even pay a good chunk of that money and take on something back. I think there’s a possible fit here for some reason, if Cleveland tries to show that all they’re doing is trying to shed some payroll but not tank. It’s an easy division for them right now — it won’t take much to win.

Likelihood: 2.5 Snotrockets


Do they need him? He’d certainly give the team an edge and with a new manager and some interesting young players, the addition of Madison Bumgarner could be a strong selling point for the fanbase. And, again, $12 million isn’t a lot of money. The team’s salary commitments for 2019 total, so far, less than $40 million. Not a lot in their system, though.

Likelihood: 2 Snotrockets


Even though they’re trying to cut payroll, never count out Jerry DiPoto.

Likelihood: 1 Snotrocket


Their biggest problem this past postseason was that they ran out of starting pitchers. The A’s can afford one year of Madison Bumgarner, their front office has an affinity for Farhan Zaidi, he knows their interesting system pretty well, and it would be an interesting PR move — it keeps Bumgarner in the bay.

Likelihood: 2 Snotrockets


The Angels always need starting pitching and if they want to make some noise before Mike Trout’s contract is up, acquiring another big name to add to the marquee might be enough to light a fire under a boring team.

Likelihood: 1 Snotrockets


Payroll watchers who want to hold onto their prospects and might otherwise be in on Harper, Machado, Corbin or Happ.

Likelihood: 0 Snotrockets


It’s certainly a temperament match. Bumgarner would fit in perfectly here. Probably couldn’t get Alex Reyes in return for him (Cardinals #1, Pipeline’s #36), but Dakota Hudson or Ryan Helsely are interesting starting pitcher prospects. We know the Cardinals can just regrow prospects as soon as they harvest and Bumgarner seems like just the kind of player they might grab in exchange for some of them. Don’t think of it as helping the Cardinals, think of it as improving the Giants.

Likelihood: 3 Snotrockets


If they don’t re-sign Harper, then they’ll need to compensate for the loss of star power. They’ve never won a playoff series, Madison Bumgarner has won 11 of 12 (if you count the Wild Card Games as a series, which I do). Their top three starters are Scherzer, Strasburg, and Tanner Roark. I think they can do better. They also have an interesting system and some talent and contracts on the major league roster they might be willing to move (and the Giants would be willing to secure) to get something done.

Likelihood: 2 Snotrockets


The Astros still seem like the leaders in analytics, and on that note, I think they’re almost “too smart” to be interested in a pitcher like Bumgarner. I don’t think the one-year deal would necessarily be a hold up in the abstract, but the quality of player would just need to be better.

Likelihood: 1 Snotrocket

My sense of baseball today is that cost per win is what’s driving the decision-making. That means cheap, controllable players are preferable to veterans in the final years of their deals, no matter who they are. It means that contract swaps aren’t quite as likely as you might think on account of the surplus value involved.

CJ Cron got cut because he’s projected to produce a little less than what he’d earn in 2019. The Yankees want to get rid of Sonny Gray, but they don’t want a Joe Panik back — they want a good player with ceiling and control.

Earlier this morning on MLB Network Radio, they had on Adam Fisher, a former executive with the Braves and Mets, who now manages a baseball projections system company, and he said something to the effect of “I don’t want to give away trade secrets, but strikeout rate, walk rate, home run rate, and batting average on balls in play are still the basic things we look at in projecting players.” Every team out there can look at Bumgarner’s numbers and see that they’re in decline and plenty will (or already have) adjust(ed) their bids appropriately or decide that they can get that kind of production elsewhere and for less.

There’s very little surplus value with Madison Bumgarner. His $12 million deal is perhaps a little bit less than what it’d cost to acquire a player with his 2018 numbers in free agency and his reputation adds a little bit more value, too. Figure he’s about an $18 million player. The Giants would want to get back value for an $18 million player, but “the smart teams” don’t want to acquire an $18 million player. They want to acquire a $30 million player who costs $15 million or less.

The Giants aren’t in a bind, it’s our expectations that need to be adjusted. If we’re lucky, I think this is a Beltran-for-Wheeler situation and the Giants get one solid almost Major League-ready player. Then again, because they’re not in a bind, maybe they don’t have the urgency to make a move. It’s due diligence to hear offers, but maybe at the end of the day, after tires have been kicked, Farhan Zaidi decides it’s in the team’s best interests to simply hold on to Bumgarner a bit longer.

Or it could be one big orgy of contract and prospect swapping.