A month ago, the only thing that could stop the San Francisco Giants from trading Madison Bumgarner was a horribly suppressed market. Two months ago, trading Bumgarner was a formality.
For evidence, I submit the guy who used to run this site, Grant Brisbee. Brisbee has a weekly column where he reviews the team’s week - one of the segments is a trade-o-meter for Bumgarner. On July 1, Brisbee gave the trade-o-meter a 9 out of 10 for likelihood of trading MadBum.
Earlier this week, that same Brisbee recorded a podcast with Giants beat reporter Andrew Baggarly, where they both stated that they don’t see any chance of Bumgarner being traded.
Nothing is set yet. There are still four days left for the Giants to reverse their miraculous July, or for a desperate team to make Farhan Zaidi the type of Godfather offer that has Zaidi willing to be Giants public enemy #1 for however long it takes for the team to build a championship heavyweight.
Both of those things are unlikely. And suddenly, against all odds, it is far, far, far more likely that Bumgarner will be on the roster on August 1 than off it.
And that alters the course of the franchise, not just for July, and not just for the rest of the year, but for many years to come.
If the Giants hang onto Bumgarner through the deadline, there’s a fairly decent chance that they re-sign him at season’s end. If they re-sign him, there’s a good chance that he either retires as a Giant, a la Matt Cain, or spends all but his final days there, a la Tim Lincecum.
Bumgarner was always destined to be a #ForeverGiant. Ten years, three rings, and one of the greatest postseason performances in MLB history solidified that.
But there’s a difference between a #ForeverGiant who spent his whole career with the organization, and a #ForeverGiant who is pitching for a different squad on his 30th birthday.
It’s not just about sentiment, however. If the Giants retain Bumgarner for the next four years, then they’re less likely to spend money in free agency on a starter for the front of the rotation. They might spend that money elsewhere, to find a quality middle infielder, or add a dynamic outfielder. They might still go shopping for a high-end starter, and try to return to the days when starting pitching was a strength.
Had they traded Bumgarner, they would have a gigantic pitching hole to fill, either this offseason or next. And while that wouldn’t be fun, they’d have a few exciting new pieces in the rapidly developing farm, giving fans an added reason to think the team can set itself up for long term contending.
One option is not better than the other. When Zaidi took over the team, he said he didn’t believe in five-year plans, and that the team wouldn’t label their moves as a “rebuild.” He said they would simply approach each move independent of the others, assess how much it helps the team win - now, or later - and make the right move.
As the team changes and the year develops, those assessments change. And as the assessments change, the moves that follow them do, as well. And as the moves change, the future Giants do, as well.
The butterfly effect is alive and well in San Francisco. One of the greatest months in the history of the franchise - and certainly the most unexpectedly great month in the history - likely just changed the future of the team, and one of its most beloved players.