PHOENIX -- When he sat down with his agent, Ed Cerulo, to plot out his free agency, left-hander Madison Bumgarner made it clear what his first choice was.
He wanted to pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It was the No. 1 place for me,” Bumgarner said after a press conference announcing his five-year, $85 million deal. “I did tell him that. We talked about that often. We met and talked about kind of how we see the offseason going and things that might happen. Of course, nothing goes according to plan, but I gave him my priorities and said to do what he can to work with this team and try to end up here. It all worked out, which I couldn’t be more thrilled about.”
Bumgarner, 30, is from North Carolina, and that will always be home for him. But Arizona also holds a special place in his heart after he spent every spring of his professional career there.
“I’ve been coming out here since 2007,” he said. “I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time here. It’s a beautiful place. For me, it just feels like where I’m supposed to be. I’ve got a lot of friends out here now. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people. It actually is a second home to me.”
Make no mistake, though, there is one thing that is most important to Bumgarner -- and if the D-backs weren’t offering it, he never would have signed with them.
“First and foremost, winning, that’s what the whole decision’s based on,” Bumgarner said, “and being with a team that, in my mind, plays my brand of baseball, plays the way I like to play. First off, they have a really good team, and a lot of young guys coming up. They’re definitely heading in a really good direction. They play hard. I would say they’ve got a bunch of grinders on this team, guys who don’t take any pitch off. They’re just a hard-nosed group of guys.”
Location and the opportunity to win meant more to Bumgarner than the money.
Sure, $85 million is nothing to sneeze at, but with the free-agent market for pitching being set by Gerrit Cole ($324 million), Stephen Strasburg ($245 million) and Zack Wheeler ($118 million), some expected Bumgarner to get more.
Turns out he was offered more, but in the end, he wanted to pitch for the D-backs.
“We definitely left some money on the table,” Bumgarner said. “You can say that.”
Each spring, Bumgarner would drive from North Carolina to Scottsdale and bring along his dogs and some horses.
“We just tried to make it as homey as possible when we come out for spring,” he said. “Basically picked up a small part of our home in North Carolina and brought it out here.”
Now he’ll get to stay for an extra six or seven months.