While Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner's no-trade list will give him some control over where he ends up if he’s dealt this season, it may be more about earning some extra money on the way out the door than anything else.
According to Buster Olney in an article for ESPN+ (subscription required) on Monday, Bumgarner could use the no-trade list -- which includes eight teams, per a report from MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal on Saturday -- to coax San Francisco into giving him an exit payout in exchange for waiving his right to block a deal.
An executive with a rival club told Olney that the Giants will likely be willing to pay the additional money -- which, in the eyes of some evaluators, could be in the range of $1 million to $1.5 million, although Brandon Phillips reportedly got $2.3 million from the Reds to waive his no-trade clause in 2017. The southpaw is arguably San Francisco’s best chance to get a much-needed influx of young talent.
That said, Bumgarner also will likely be motivated to approve a trade because players who are dealt during the season are not eligible to receive a qualifying offer in free agency the following offseason.
Up until the next year’s MLB Draft, teams need to forfeit one or more picks to sign a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer, which can sometimes put a damper on a player’s free-agent value. That is believed to be one of the reasons why Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel remain unsigned, as both players rejected qualifying offers. The market for each player is expected to pick up once the Draft passes June 3-5.
While this might not end up mattering because there are 21 other teams Bumgarner can be freely traded to, his eight-team list was strategically compiled and includes many of the contenders that will likely be interested in acquiring him. Some of these clubs have also been mentioned as potential Keuchel suitors, but Bumgarner is likely to be a more cost-effective option, given his $12 million salary for this season.
Here’s a breakdown of the eight teams on the list, in alphabetical order, and where their rotations stand at this point in the season. Below that is a look at other possible fits that aren't on his no-trade list.
Of all the teams on the list, Houston might be the least likely to trade for Bumgarner. Even if 23-year-old right-hander Corbin Martin doesn’t continue to pitch well after his stellar debut, the club has No. 2 prospect Forrest Whitley waiting in the Minors for an opportunity and Josh James and Collin McHugh in the bullpen as rotation depth. However, with Gerrit Cole headed for free agency this offseason, Houston may look at Bumgarner as a player who could help this season, and then potentially re-sign with the club after the campaign for less money and fewer years than it would take to keep Cole, as Olney wrote Tuesday.
While Atlanta has a greater need in the bullpen than in the rotation, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit from adding Bumgarner to its inexperienced starting staff. With Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman pitching poorly after dealing with injuries during Spring Training, youngsters Max Fried and Mike Soroka have been the club’s most reliable starters. Trading for Bumgarner would give the club the battle-tested ace it needs and have the added benefit of keeping him away from the division-rival Phillies, another team on his no-trade list.
Although Milwaukee reached Game 7 of the National League Championship Series last season while relying heavily on its bullpen, the club might have trouble returning to the postseason unless it improves its rotation, especially with Zach Davies unlikely to maintain his current performance level (1.54 ERA). The Brewers entered Tuesday with the third highest rotation ERA (4.54) in the NL.
St. Louis’ rotation has been problematic, with Miles Mikolas’ 3.83 ERA counting as the only sub-4.00 mark among anyone who has made more than one start for the club this season. While Jack Flaherty has the talent to improve significantly, continuing to rely on Adam Wainwright, Dakota Hudson and the oft-injured Michael Wacha could hurt the Cardinals’ chances in the ultra-competitive NL Central.
After a 2-7 start, the Cubs have gone 22-7 to rise to the top of the NL Central. Yu Darvish has struggled, but the Cubs’ other four starters (Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana) are thriving, making the bullpen a much greater area of need for the club.
MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reported in April that Philadelphia had been doing its due diligence on Bumgarner since Spring Training. With Vince Velasquez on the injured list, Nick Pivetta in the Minors and Aaron Nola struggling to duplicate his sterling effort from last season, the club may continue to seek pitching help. Bumgarner would be a perfect fit, given the Phillies’ rotation skews right-handed and no one on the starting staff besides Jake Arrieta has ever pitched in the postseason.
Boston has rebounded from a slow start to move within three games of first place in the AL East entering Tuesday’s action, but the club’s rotation has struggled and lacks depth. Although Chris Sale appears to be back on track and David Price (elbow) could return from the injured list this week, adding Bumgarner would provide the team with insurance in case Nathan Eovaldi doesn’t bounce back from elbow surgery and Rick Porcello (5.15 ERA, 4.96 FIP) doesn’t improve.
The Yankees have remained afloat amid a great deal of injuries, but ace Luis Severino (shoulder) is expected to be out until after the All-Star break, and James Paxton is still sidelined by a knee ailment. That makes the 38-year-old CC Sabathia, the 36-year-old J.A. Happ and the inexperienced Domingo German, who has never thrown more than 123 1/3 innings in a professional season, incredibly crucial to New York’s postseason chances. Adding a starter will likely be at the top of the Yankees' wish list before the Trade Deadline.
Other possible landing spots
Of course, the teams above aren't the only potential destinations for Bumgarner. Some clubs that aren't on the southpaw's no-trade list could be in the mix as well. Based on conversations with rival evaluators, Olney lists the following teams as additional possibilities.
The Angels have gone 11-5 over their past 16 games, but the team still has the highest rotation ERA (5.84) in the Majors. In an effort to avoid going another year of Mike Trout's prime without making the playoffs, Los Angeles could enter the Bumgarner sweepstakes.
General manager A.J. Preller has shown a willingness to make bold moves during his tenure with the Padres, and the club is 22-19 despite its rotation problems beyond electric rookie Chris Paddack. If San Diego remains in the hunt for a playoff spot, Preller could dip into the team's impressive collection of prospects to pry Bumgarner away from San Francisco.
Minnesota focused mostly on improving its offense in the offseason with the additions of Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, C.J. Cron and Marwin Gonzalez, and it has worked. The team ranks third in the Majors with 73 homers and sits in first place in the AL Central ahead of an underwhelming Indians club that is currently without Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger. The division crown is there for the taking, and a trade for Bumgarner could be just what the Twins need to take it.