Madison Bumgarner thrills River Cats fans at Raley Field
Madison Bumgarner has worn the San Francisco Giants uniform for the last 10 seasons, but his days of donning the orange and black could soon be numbered.
Fewer than 24 hours after Bumgarner, 29, dominated the best team in the National League, the Giants’ window to trade one of their franchise pillars is open for the first time.
After tossing seven innings of one-run ball against a Dodgers lineup that at times appeared overwhelmed against the veteran lefty, Bumgarner is a target of nearly every club around the league with playoff aspirations.
For the past two seasons, Bumgarner’s name has floated in and out of trade rumors, but no executive around the league had any luck convincing the Giants to crack open their window.
Until now, there was no way for the Giants to see any light.
Franchises operating with smaller payrolls that are more accustomed to the process of rebuilding may have first considered trading Bumgarner at the end of 2017, but the Giants believed a 98-loss season was nothing more than an aberration. Led by CEO Larry Baer, Giants executives felt the club could contend again in 2018, a sentiment that prevented the front office from ever seriously considering a trade involving a World Series hero.
The Giants were not far enough removed from Bumgarner’s 2014 postseason heroics and the pitcher missed a considerable portion of the 2017 season after damaging his shoulder in a dirt bike accident. With two seasons left on his team-friendly contract, there was no chance the Giants would move Bumgarner.
A final record of 73-89 in 2018 suggests the Giants were out of contention and could have dealt the lefty at the trade deadline, but the Giants were a game above .500 on July 31 and 68-68 at the August waiver deadline. Despite understanding his tenure as general manager was likely coming to a close, Bobby Evans was not going to put Bumgarner on the trade block when the club was still within striking distance of a playoff berth.
Furthermore, given the fractured pitching hand Bumgarner suffered at the end of spring training that cost him two months of starts, there were questions about his future performance that may have prevented the Giants from maximizing a possible return.
Zaidi, however, understood the ramifications and blowback he would face from a fan base that adores Bumgarner if one of his first transactions was selling a popular, heavy-duty pitcher for parts.
After multiple years of speculation, after two-plus months of baseball and long after the Giants tumbled into last place in the National League West, the window for the Giants to trade Bumgarner is open for the first time.
MLB’s amateur draft is in the rearview mirror, division races are starting to take shape and Bumgarner is rounding into form. Outside of one mistake Bumgarner made to Dodgers slugger Max Muncy, the four-time All-Star was brilliant against a lineup that troubles even the best starting pitchers.
His excellence against Los Angeles will not go unnoticed.
In his last 10 outings against the Dodgers, which includes starts when Bumgarner was still slowed by shoulder and hand injuries, he has a sub-2.00 ERA. Cody Bellinger, the favorite to win the NL MVP, is 4-for-17 lifetime against Bumgarner. Corey Seager, the everyday shortstop, is 6-for-26. Muncy and Joc Pederson, two powerful left-handed hitters, are a combined 3-for-17.
Need a starter to throw Game 5 and face lefties out of the bullpen in Game 7? Bumgarner has been there and done that.
NL contenders like the Brewers and Phillies know a strong postseason will require success against the Dodgers, making Bumgarner an even more desirable asset. AL clubs like the Yankees, Rays and Twins see a pitcher with an uptick in his velocity and a remarkable playoff résumé and dream about the idea of seeing Bumgarner pitch with a postseason spot on the line.
Bumgarner is one of the fiercest competitors in the sport and he remains extraordinarily motivated to climb back to the top of the mountain. His desire to win another World Series provides him with reason to waive his no-trade clause, and now, the Giants are inching closer to asking him to do just that.
The window is now open, but there is no guarantee Bumgarner gets out. If Zaidi is going to take the unpopular step of trading the Giants’ ace, he understands how imperative it is to receive future contributors in return. The Giants can always keep Bumgarner through the end of the regular season, assign him a qualifying offer, and recover an early draft pick if he signs a free agent contract with another club before next year’s amateur draft.
There is a chance the Giants don’t take the drastic step of trading Bumgarner, but all that will do is delay the inevitable. It’s unlikely the franchise will match the top offer for Bumgarner in free agency this offseason, and it won’t take long for Bumgarner to figure out there are better opportunities to win outside of San Francisco.
There’s no telling how many starts Bumgarner has left in a Giants uniform, but what is clear is that the end is rapidly approaching.
The blinds are drawn, the window is cracked and the Giants are finally open for business.