The Brewers and Giants have had substantive communication about a Bumgarner trade this winter, sources say, and the Brewers are continuing their internal deliberations about how much they’re willing to give up in order to acquire the three-time World Series hero.
So, there’s not much new here, but the fact that it’s coming up again now a week into 2019 — wait, seriously? What happened to November and December of 2018? — suggests that the talks aren’t quite as dead as we might’ve thought.
Obviously, the Giants are going to wait for the best possible deal to present itself, and while I’ve long been on board with the idea that such a deal would emerge come July, what Morosi’s latest report supposes is, “What if it’s not?”
On that note — holy crap. The Giants might trade Madison Bumgarner before the start of Spring Training. That’s a ridiculous thought. I’d started my winter hibernation comforted by the warming thought that we’d get to see him pitch in a Giants uniform for a few more months. That’s still the likeliest possibility, but if the Brewers and Giants have gotten this far and all that’s left is for the Brewers to decide, then that means the Giants have named their asking price.
You can take a look at MLB Pipeline’s view of the Brewers’ system or their MLB depth chart to get an idea.
Indeed, Morosi tweeted this a day after his report:
Source: In initial Madison Bumgarner trade talks with #Brewers, #SFGiants indicated that a young starting pitcher — Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff or Freddy Peralta — would need to be part of offer for deal to occur. @MLB @MLBNetwork— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) January 8, 2019
Those names are hardly a surprise, given the magnitude of the trade, but on the other hand: come on. Morosi’s earlier trade rumor report was discounted as a “trial balloon” by Farhan Zaidi. He could’ve said that because telling a lie was more advantageous to him at that point or he could’ve been telling the truth, in which case Morosi’s initial report and this subsequent report is extremely one-sided. He’s getting it from a Brewers leaker and it’s based on the Brewers attempts to figure out what it would take to get Bumgarner.
But that’s not all. Morosi once again mentions the Phillies in this report —
The Phillies also have interest in Bumgarner, but they’re focused on big-dollar possibilities via free agency
— which is really just a restatement of that previous rumor.
There are over 150 free agents still available, and there’s a very good chance that both the Brewers and Phillies will find pitchers who provide similar regular season value as Madison Bumgarner (projected to be about a 2-win player with an ERA of nearly 4) for about the same or less cost ($12 million). And that’s where the gray area comes into play.
The Phillies and Brewers are smart enough to find equivalent value on the free agent market as are many other teams, but there are few players with the name recognition and postseason pedigree available right now than Bumgarner. You want to tell teams you’re in it to win it, you add Bumgarner. Even with his declining everything, fan bases will bide their time for the postseason. It’s not logical, but neither are sports.
So, the gray area is do teams that miss out on, say, Harper and/or Machado try to make a splash before the start of the season (Phillies, Cubs), or do teams that compete against teams that can afford to make a splash (Brewers, Braves) make a countermove of their own before the season and enter 2019 fully prepared to do battle? Or do all the smart asset managers simply manage their assets smartly and do nothing until absolutely necessary?
Here are Bumgarner’s basic numbers against NL East and Central teams for his career (with the caveat being that these aren’t predictive of how he’d do against these teams in 2019):
That’s a 3.04 ERA in 47 starts against the NL East (302.2 IP) and 3.19 ERA in 51 starts against NL Central teams (333.2 IP) — excluding the postseason, of course. So, if you’re the Phillies and you really want to mess with the Mets, Bumgarner’s a good move — not solely because of the small sample size dominance, but also because Bumgarner is obviously in love with Jacob deGrom and pitches his best against the guy. The Cubs were a little below average against left-handed pitching last season, so if you’re the Brewers (who lack a left-handed starting pitcher), maybe that’s your move to make sure you’re not banking on a late-season Cubs collapse to get into the playoffs again.
I’m still putting the likelihood of a Bumgarner trade before the season at 1.5 Snotrockets. Of course, the Giants could very well surprise us. Nobody saw the Pat Venditte move coming.