In Part One, I surveyed the farm systems of the top teams with whom the Giants could secure the best deals for the players they might possible make available for trade. In Part Two, I’m focusing solely on one deal, which for every other team I’d called the Bumgarner Gambit — they’d be giving up a lot to secure him with no guarantee that the plan would work, because baseball is terrifyingly unpredictable — but for the Giants I’m calling...
The Nuclear Option: A Potential Bumgarner Deal
Setting aside my firm belief that there is no way the Giants are going to deal Bumgarner in the next three weeks, what could they possibly look for in a return if they did? Let me say this, everything in Part One was speculation based on industry trends and my general knowledge of the systems I covered — but now we wander into a field of blindness that knows no precedent. As a dude sitting on the internet with absolutely no idea how these discussions actually happen, nearly everything that follows is of minus value.
That said, this is a complicated issue. Bumgarner has missed a lot of the past two seasons, and is still attempting to round himself into shape for 2018, so his performance in any individual game could swing the needle fore or aft for any particular team. That said, the Giants are certainly in a position to demand the moon here and they have a unique asset on their hands. They can legitimately say they’re offering what no other team can: one of the two or three greatest post-season pitchers in major league history; a pre-28 year old player who has on his resumé an example of single-handedly carrying a team to a championship; an ace pitcher who’s going to get to September 2018 without the fatigue of an ace pitcher’s workload. And the acquiring team gets two shots at the ring with Bumgarner if they acquire him now. If all that’s not enough, Bumgarner is owed just $12 million in 2019.
Take all those factors into account, and I would say the Giants have to set a bar that includes two upper level impact prospects (top 25-50 types) plus two other compelling pieces. So, who could offer up two top 50 types? The Astros have the greatest tandem to offer in Forrest Whitley and Kyle Tucker, (a trio if you add Yordan Alvarez), but with the super rotation they’ve built, I can’t see them being willing to use those resources on another starting pitcher, no matter how mythic.
Cleveland’s top two of C Francisco Mejia and SP Triston McKenzie is appealing as well, but again, I’m not sure SP is where they want to focus their resources.
I really don’t think Milwaukee has the upper end chips to put together a compelling deal.
If the Phillies offered up Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina things would get interesting, but given the high-risk nature of young pitching prospects, moving Bumgarner really needs to provide some of the certainty that position player prospects bring.
The Giants aren’t trading Bumgarner to the Dodgers (why did I even write that? Now I can’t get the appalling image of Bum in Blue out of my brain?)
That leaves me with three potential partners:
The very confusing Washington Nationals badly need starting pitching, and with Victor Robles and Carter Kieboom, they can certainly offer an enticing start to a package. Add in someone like Luis Garcia, their top IFA signing of 2016, and there’s a deal with a lot of star power potential. But would the Nationals really move Robles at this moment, with Harper on the verge of free agency? An OF of Robles and Soto certainly helps usher them into their next generation, but if ownership demands that this needs to be the year, that’s a deal that could make sense. Add in some low A lottery arm like Jeffry Rodriguez and you could have yourselves a deal.
“California Dreaming” it may be, but you want a potential franchise-altering trade? Miguel Andujar, Justus Sheffield, Estevan Florial. One power arm dropped between the couch covers. Done. The Yankees won’t do it, but the Giants could certainly say that’s the bar. More likely, take the two bats and then add Estrada and one of the six dozen power armed hurlers in the system. Albert Abreu and Juan Then? Heck they could afford to throw two in!
This is probably the deal with the most potential for happening. Young talent has put the Braves rebuild in hyper-drive and they’ve amassed baseball’s greatest collection of pitching prospects for exactly this moment. Mike Soroka is likely off the table at this point, but there’s plenty more where that came from, whether your tastes run from “hasn’t stuck in the majors” Luis Gohara to “further away, but big upside” guys like Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright or Bryse Wilson.
But it’s the bats in the system that excite me. Their “third baseman of the future”, Austin Riley, would plug a need for young RH power in the Giants’ lineup. 19-year old OF Drew Waters is the most exciting young OF in the Sally League. Wilson Contreras’ younger brother William is one of the best young catching prospects in baseball, and Rome also has a stupifyingly raw child-monster named Juan Carlos Encarnacion, who may be the toolsiest player in the minors. Take a couple of the hitters, one pitcher from Column A and one from Column B and you could have a deal.
Personally, I’d insist on Riley and Waters, one of Anderson, Wright, or Wilson, and then maybe a Jasseel de la Cruz or Encarnacion—or even better, the whirligig stylings of Touki Toussaint, who’s ready to be a force in the bullpen (Giants could toss in Tyler Beede to make it an even exchange of mercurial 2014 1st rounders). For that, the Braves get an ace to lead their core of young position players into the playoffs the next two years, a mentor for 20-year old Mike Soroka and his fellow emerging arms, and a genuine legend of the Deep South to market.
The key to all of this, of course, is that the Giants could simply do what everyone expects them to do: “Forever Giant” Bum and then continue to try to scrape together enough pieces around him to let him throw shutouts in future Wild Card games (this is the option that appeals to my sentimental heart, personally). His post-season resumé is its own, private Sellers’ Market. And any buyer entering that market does so knowing that they’ll have to bite down and swallow hard to walk away with the prize.