9 possible landing spots for Bumgarner
By Richard Justice | @richardjustice
December 11, 2019
SAN DIEGO -- Can you dig Madison Bumgarner with the Dodgers? Seeing him in that uniform would take some getting used to. According to reports, he's suddenly the focus of their attention in the wake of Gerrit Cole agreeing to a record-setting nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees at the Winter Meetings here on Tuesday night.
Or how about Bumgarner with the Angels? No team needs him more at this point. Or the Cardinals, Reds or Padres? Bumgarner's market is about to be clearly defined with the top three starting pitchers -- Cole, Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) and Zack Wheeler (Phillies) -- off the market.
So many other teams are seeking starting pitching that it seems reasonable to assume he'll crack the $100 million threshold that seemed unlikely a few days ago.
That change reflects two things: the obvious demand for pitching and the faith some teams have that Bumgarner will figure out how to pitch at a high level even as his stuff diminishes.
Diminished stuff is a relative term for someone who just made 34 starts, tops in the National League, and pitched more than 200 innings for the seventh time in nine full seasons with the Giants.
However, there are warning signs: According to Statcast, Bumgarner's .316 xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average), a catch-all number that is determined by quality and amount of contact, was 239th of 523 pitchers in 2019. His 41.5-percent hard-hit rate was 491st of 586 pitchers measured by Statcast.
That said, if he simply repeats his 2019 numbers of 207 2/3 innings and a 3.90 ERA, he would be a nice get for a long list of teams. Let's consider nine:
Bumgarner is their focus, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and MLB Network. Would he do it after making 289 appearances for the Giants and being a member of three championship teams? No team is likely to offer him a better chance to win in 2020.
So the Angels will not achieve their goal of putting baseball's best pitcher at the front of their rotation. There are still reasonable options, including Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel. But Bumgarner probably jumps to the top of their list. He and new Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway, who had a great track record in Cleveland, would make an interesting partnership.
3. White Sox
This one makes the most sense because the White Sox need Bumgarner's innings and also because he'd be a valuable mentor to the young starters. The White Sox went hard after Wheeler and while Bumgarner is a year older and has pitched almost 1,100 more regular-season innings, he'd be a nice fit.
Even with Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda , the Twins are still looking to upgrade their rotation, and Bumgarner's postseason success (2.11 ERA in 16 appearances) makes him especially attractive. He would be a huge addition in helping the Twins win a second straight AL Central title.
The Padres are so confident in their young starters that they would prefer to sign a veteran to a shorter contract. But as the market evolves, Padres general manager A.J. Preller could shift his approach.
He'd provide rotation depth behind Jack Flaherty , Miles Mikolas , Adam Wainwright , Dakota Hudson and perhaps Carlos Martinez . His presence would allow Martinez to work his way back into a starting role and provide a reliable innings-eating presence.
The Mets have given no indication that they're willing to offer a multiyear deal, but they do need an arm to replace Wheeler. For a team in a win-now mode, Bumgarner could be a reasonable addition.
The Reds surprised some by making a hard run at Wheeler since conventional wisdom had them pursuing offense. For that reason, Bumgarner makes sense.
Why not? He's an icon in San Francisco, and his return would be popular with fans and the clubhouse. Also, he pitched well enough in 2019 to merit a return.