Gather around, children, and take a look into my crystal ball.
I see… tweets. I see… a pitcher, giant in stature and uniform. I see… a multi-year extension that won’t be worth it by the end of the contract.
The trade talk surrounding Madison Bumgarner has become one of the most intriguing (or aggravating) will-they, won’t-they stories of the trade deadline. Farhan Zaidi says the Giants are definitely trading Bumgarner! Wait, an anonymous executive says Bumgarner ain’t going nowhere! Wait, was that a Buster hug?! Wait, Noah Syndegaard is available! There goes Bumgarner’s market!
So on and so forth. We’re still a few days away from the deadline, so who actually knows how it will unravel. Heck, Bumgarner might be gone by the time this article is published.
But let’s imagine for a moment that the rumors are true and the ornery ace stays put. If Bumgarner remains a Giant, does that mean he’ll also
resign re-sign with the Giants?
The #SFGiants also have not ruled out re-signing Madison Bumgarner but recognize it may be a long shot. There have been no contact talks.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 26, 2019
First of all, I’m assuming that Bumgarner will get hit with a QO if he isn’t traded; as nice as it is to think the Giants might do right by Bumgarner, I can’t see this front office skipping the chance to recoup some value. I’m also assuming that what happened to Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel this past offseason is now the industry standard. What that means for Bumgarner is one of two things: Either he deals with a severely depressed market, or he waits it out until next June to pitch professionally again.
Let’s start with the latter scenario first. I think Keuchel is actually a good comp here—a youngish pitcher who’s had a couple of up-and-down seasons due to injury and regression but still promises to put up solid numbers for the foreseeable future. The former Astros ace got a one-year deal at $13 million from the Atlanta Braves—essentially, a prorated contract of $20 million.
Is Bumgarner worth $20 million a year, actual or prorated? Keuchel has been the better pitcher of the two in recent years, producing 5.6 fWAR between the last two seasons versus Bumgarner’s 3 fWAR over the same time period. However, Bumgarner has shown flashes of his past All-Star self over the last month. Since his start against the Colorado Rockies on June 25, the once and perhaps future ace has put up some pretty numbers: 36 IP, 41 K, 6 BB, 8 ER. Those are the kind of numbers that could convince a desperate-enough team to offer something along the lines of Keuchel’s contract, maybe with an extra year or two tacked on, peripherals be damned.
However, I find it hard to believe Bumgarner would choose to wait. Of course, we should always be careful speculating about what a player actually wants (do we know anyone, really?), but does this sound like a guy willing to sit out a few months just to get paid a little more?
Bumgarner, asked about trade speculation: “I don’t give a shit. I’m here to win games for this team, and that’s what I’m doing.”— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) July 19, 2019
Add to that his previous statements about making money (i.e. he doesn’t care), and you got yourself a stew of a homegrown pitcher more than happy to pitch at a discount.
Unfortunately, this is where things get a little gross. Thanks to the QO, the Giants would have all the leverage in negotiations. Because they don’t have to worry about losing draft picks, they could outbid all the other teams fairly easily. The Giants could probably get away with an offer like 4 years/$60 million, perhaps even finagling a deal of 3 years/$42 million with a fourth-year option.
In other words, it would be relatively cheap to keep Bumgarner in a Giants uniform, albeit for the shadiest reasons possible. This isn’t to say it’s necessarily a bad thing—if Bumgarner really wants to stay in San Francisco and he doesn’t care about the money, then the final contract numbers don’t really matter.
Still, it feels icky to think that not getting traded is the worst possible outcome for Bumgarner’s market. What he has given this team and its fans is truly priceless, and he deserves all the horses and F-150 Ford trucks he could ever want. It’s just a shame that whatever decision he makes for his career will be scrutinized for all the wrong reasons.