Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

How will Bumgarner's free agency play out?

November 18, 2019

After a memorable 11-season run with the Giants that included four straight All-Star appearances and top-10 finishes in NL Cy Young Award voting (2013-16), as well as three World Series titles (2010, '12 and '14) and 2014 Fall Classic MVP honors, Madison Bumgarner is a free agent for the first

After a memorable 11-season run with the Giants that included four straight All-Star appearances and top-10 finishes in NL Cy Young Award voting (2013-16), as well as three World Series titles (2010, '12 and '14) and 2014 Fall Classic MVP honors, Madison Bumgarner is a free agent for the first time. He is tied to Draft-pick compensation if he signs with a new team after being one of 10 players to receive the $17.8 million qualifying offer.

Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the 30-year-old left-hander.

Will Bumgarner have trouble landing deal he wants?

Nov. 18: If there's one big-name pitcher on the free-agent market who could have trouble getting the contract he's looking for, it might be Bumgarner, writes Craig Edwards in an article for ESPN+ (subscription required). Bumgarner, 30, struck out 203 batters in 207 2/3 innings this past season, but his ERA+ was just 107.

Edwards compares Bumgarner to Jake Arrieta in the 2017-18 offseason. Arrieta reached his peak in 2015, winning the National League Cy Young Award. But by the time he hit free agency, he was coming off a 3.53 ERA (124 ERA+) with a 4.16 FIP over 168 1/3 innings in 2017. Like Bumgarner, Arrieta rejected a qualifying offer, which meant teams had to forfeit at least one Draft pick to sign him. The right-hander ended up remaining unsigned until March, at which point he joined the Phillies on a three-year, $75 million contract with multiple team option years.

Bumgarner's situation also compares to that of Dallas Keuchel last offseason. Keuchel won the American League Cy Young Award the same year Arrieta took home NL honors, but his performance slipped leading up to free agency. After rejecting a qualifying offer from the Astros, Keuchel was unsigned until he joined the Braves on a one-year, $13 million deal in June.

Also working against Bumgarner is the strength of this year's crop of free-agent starting pitchers, especially compared to the previous two years.

Would Braves give up another Draft pick to sign Bumgarner?

Nov. 17: The Braves already signed one free-agent pitcher away from the Giants when they added reliever Will Smith on a three-year contract, surrendering a Draft pick in the process due to the qualifying offer. Could they do it again with Bumgarner?

MLB.com's Richard Justice names Atlanta as the perfect fit for Bumgarner, who is from North Carolina. However, because Bumgarner rejected a one-year, $17.8 million QO from San Francisco, the Braves would need to forfeit their third-highest selection in the 2020 MLB Draft to sign him. The club already gave up its second-highest pick, as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool, to sign Smith.

The rotation is considered a major area of need for the Braves, especially after Mike Foltynewicz took a step back in 2019. Mike Soroka, Max Fried and Foltynewicz are currently penciled into the top three spots on the team's starting staff. That said, it's unclear if Atlanta would be comfortable surrendering another Draft pick to sign Bumgarner. They would also need to do so to sign Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg or Zack Wheeler, who all rejected qualifying offers from their respective teams.

The Josh Donaldson situation could influence how Atlanta proceeds with regards to its rotation. If Donaldson signs elsewhere, the Braves would not only have more money to spend on a starting pitcher, but they would also get back a compensation pick after Competitive Balance Round B in the 2020 Draft.

Could Bumgarner head to AL Central?

Nov. 16: If a few dominoes fall in certain ways, we could end up seeing Bumgarner in the American League, MLB.com's Richard Justice speculates as he investigates different scenarios and their subsequent effects. The Twins already re-signed Jake Odorizzi when he accepted the qualifying offer, and they could further bolster that rotation by signing Bumgarner. Add that to José Berríos in that group and the Twins could have a solid top three to guide them to a possible back-to-back division title. More >

What's next for Bumgarner after declining qualifying offer?

Nov. 14: Bumgarner unsurprisingly chose to decline the one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer from the Giants on Thursday. While nothing is settled yet, obviously, that decision essentially puts the 30-year-old a step closer to leaving the only organization for which he's ever played.

The Giants are "expected to maintain contact with Bumgarner throughout the offseason," MLB.com's Maria Guardado wrote after the starter -- as well as fellow southpaw and now former San Francisco teammate Will Smith -- declined the QO. But the franchise is in rebuilding mode under a new regime looking to move forward toward the next window of contention ... not gaze back at the last one during which Bumgarner played such a key role.

Interestingly enough, the Braves have been linked early and often to Bumgarner, and Atlanta now is Smith's new team, after he inked a three-year, $40 million contract Thursday as the first big free-agent signing of the offseason.

The Phillies and Yankees also have expressed interest in Bumgarner, who is coming off a solid walk year in which he returned to full health and threw 207 2/3 innings, suggesting he'll find multiyear offers -- and won't regret turning down the QO.

Yanks 'definitely' will check in on Bumgarner; Phils already have

Nov. 13: We know the Braves have been linked to Bumgarner early and often this offseason, but what about the Phillies?

MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reports in his Wednesday column for The Athletic (subscription required) that Philadelphia has checked in on the free-agent lefty as it casts "a wide net" for starting pitching.

Rosenthal speculates that the Phillies could be motivated to keep Bumgarner from signing with the reigning National League East champion Braves, and adds that Philadelphia could be in the market for multiple veteran starters (for example, a combination of Bumgarner and fellow free-agent lefty Cole Hamels). However, Rosenthal believes that Bumgarner is a "more natural fit" for the Braves than the Phillies.

The Yankees, another team expected to consider a wide range of starting-pitcher options, have interest in Bumgarner as well. According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, general manager Brian Cashman said he hasn't reached out to Bumgarner's agency yet but "definitely" will.

Predicting Bumgarner's landing spot

Nov. 12: With Bumgarner having spent his entire professional career with the Giants -- from being drafted in the first round back in 2007 to 11 big league seasons in San Francisco -- it's hard to think of him in another uniform.

But will it happen?

The Giants, of course, presented the 30-year-old lefty with the $17.8 million qualifying offer, but he's unlikely to accept that when a potential long-term contract is in play. Should Bumgarner decline the QO -- the deadline for players to decide is this Thursday -- he still could return to San Francisco, but the odds might be against it.

In fact, the odds already may be against it. In a poll conducted by MLB Trade Rumors asking readers to predict where 10 of the top free agents would sign, the odds-on favorite was ... the Braves.

Atlanta registered a hefty 39.3 percent of the vote, followed by the Giants at 11.4 percent. The only other club to reach a double-digit percentage was the Twins (10.2 percent).

The Braves could be a good fit for Bumgarner. He would essentially replace another veteran southpaw in Dallas Keuchel, who is back on the open market after signing as a free agent during the 2019 season. Additionally, Bumgarner's workhorse presence could provide a strong example for the cavalcade of young Braves arms, and his historic postseason resume could give Atlanta an edge in October after the club lost in the NLDS in both 2018 and '19.

Report: 'No chance' Bumgarner accepts QO from Giants

Nov. 11: The baseball world is still awaiting qualifying-offer decisions before Thursday's 5 p.m. ET deadline for the 10 players who received one from their previous team. But indications are that Bumgarner won't join the historical short-list of players who accept the one-year, $17.8 million deal.

NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic reports that the Giants hadn't heard from Bumgarner's camp as of Monday morning, but he speculates there is "no chance" that the southpaw will accept the qualifying offer. The ace is much more likely to test the free-agent market, even though there will be Draft pick compensation attached to him if he ends up signing with another team. The Giants are expected to be part of the bidding for Bumgarner, with the Twins, Cardinals and Braves among the other likely candidates.

FanGraphs' Kiley McDaniel estimates a four-year deal for Bumgarner with a $16 million average annual value, while the site's readership settled at a median crowdsource estimate of $18 million annually over four years.

Who's the top SP prize after Cole and Strasburg?

Nov. 9: When it comes to this year's free agent starting pitchers, there's Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, and then everyone else. The top choice from a second tier that includes Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler and Hyun-Jin Ryu might differ from team to team.

In their story for ESPN+ (subscription required) breaking down the starting pitcher market, Buster Olney and Dave Schoenfield both named Wheeler as the pitcher they would most like to have after the Big 2.

"A lot of that depends on price, but I suspect that the teams that lose out on the Cole bidding may turn to Wheeler because of the flashes of excellence and his age (29)," Olney writes. "At last summer's Trade Deadline, the Braves, Yankees, Astros and Rays were all involved in conversations with the Mets about possible Wheeler trades, foreshadowing the interest in him this winter."

Bradford Doolittle, meanwhile, chose Bumgarner over Wheeler in a close race. In Doolittle's view, Wheeler might be the better choice for next season, but Bumgarner is more of a sure thing to provide above-average innings over the life of a multiyear contract.

Fans may be split between Wheeler and Bumgarner as well, if this MLB Trade Rumors poll (which starter would you sign between Wheeler, Bumgarner and Ryu?) is any indication. With more than 10,000 total votes cast as of Saturday afternoon, Wheeler is at 40.36 percent, while Bumgarner has garnered 38.51 percent.

Ryu is third at 21.13 percent, even though he is coming off a Cy Young Award-caliber season and is the only one of the three hurlers who doesn't have a qualifying offer attached to him. The left-hander's age (32), injury history and league-average strikeout rate (22.5 percent) are possible reasons for the disparity between Ryu and the other two.

Braves reportedly have made Bumgarner a 'priority'

Nov. 6: The Braves will likely try to re-sign third baseman Josh Donaldson and could look for an upgrade at catcher this offseason, but the rotation is arguably their biggest area of need, and it appears the team already has a target in mind.

According to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, the Braves "have made Bumgarner a priority" and could move quickly on him once he's officially free to sign with any team.

Atlanta has won back-to-back National League East titles, only to lose in the NL Division Series both years. The team's core on the other side of the ball, which includes Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies, is ready to win now. But the pitching staff needs work.

Dallas Keuchel is a free agent, as is Julio Teheran, with Atlanta declining his $12 million option. And after Mike Foltynewicz broke out in 2018, he struggled for much of '19 and recorded just one out in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Cardinals, allowing seven runs in a season-ending loss.

In an article for ESPN+ (subscription required) on Wednesday, Buster Olney, Bradford Doolittle and Dave Schoenfield broke down the starting pitcher market. Both Doolittle and Schoenfield think the Braves are the most likely landing spot for Bumgarner, who is from nearby North Carolina. Zack Wheeler, a Georgia native, could also be a target, along with Keuchel, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Bumgarner, Cole, Strasburg, Wheeler and Jake Odorizzi are the five starting pitchers who received a one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer. To sign any of them, the Braves would need to surrender their second-highest selection in the 2020 MLB Draft as well as $500,000 from their international bonus pool.

Bumgarner receives qualifying offer from Giants

Nov. 4: Bumgarner received a qualifying offer from the Giants on Monday, adding another layer of intrigue to his free agency this winter. The southpaw will almost certainly decline the one-year, $17.8 million offer, though he has up to 10 days to make the decision.

Assuming Bumgarner indeed declines the qualifying offer, any potential suitors would need to be willing to part with a compensation pick for the 2020 MLB Draft. If the four-time All-Star ultimately signs elsewhere, the Giants would receive a pick in Competitive Balance Round B in next year's Draft.

That could play into the Giants' favor in their pitch to keep Bumgarner in San Francisco, where he's spent his entire 11-year career. By extending the qualifying offer, the Giants at least give themselves the upper hand in potential contract discussions, as they are the only club that does not need to factor in losing a Draft pick to sign Bumgarner.

Could Bumgarner join this new contender?

Nov. 3: Bumgarner sits in the next tier of free-agent starters, alongside Hyun-Jin Ryu and Zack Wheeler, below Gerrit Cole and the record contract he's expected to receive. And that tier could be in the Twins' wheelhouse as they look to build momentum off a 101-win season. The defending American League Central division champions will have most of their record-setting lineup and solid bullpen intact, but their rotation could be a big question mark now that Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda are all free agents.

La Velle Neal III of the Minnesota Star-Tribune estimates that the Twins could have roughly $50 million to spend on free-agent upgrades, which could leave them enough room to sign at least one of their departing free-agent starters (say, Odorizzi) and still add an impact starter like Bumgarner.

Strasburg opts out; here's what it means for Bumgarner, other FA starters

Nov. 2: On the heels of a postseason for the ages culminating in a World Series MVP Award, Strasburg is set to hit the open market. The right-hander had the ability to opt out of the remaining four years and $100 million on his contract by noon ET on Saturday, the same day the Nationals held their World Series parade in Washington D.C. While no official announcement has been made, a source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that Strasburg is opting out.

Strasburg immediately becomes one of the top players available, along with longtime Nationals teammate Anthony Rendon and ace right-hander Gerrit Cole.

Of course, just because Strasburg opted out doesn't mean he's going to leave the nation's capital. The Nationals could look to bring him back on a more lucrative contract. Last year, Clayton Kershaw had a similar opt-out situation with the Dodgers, and he eventually used that leverage to land a new three-year deal for $93 million to stay in Los Angeles. Previously, he had two years and $65 million left on his deal.

But for now, Strasburg is free to sign anywhere, which could shake up the starting pitcher market in a big way.

Strasburg opting out means there is a viable alternative to Cole. This doesn't change Cole's status all that much, if at all. But as long as Strasburg is available, teams may be less inclined to talk themselves into Zack Wheeler's potential, or Madison Bumgarner's ability to remain effective as the innings continue to pile up, or the likelihood that Hyun-Jin Ryu can stay healthy.

Aside from Cole, everyone on the starting pitcher free-agent list has been bumped down a peg, and things are about to get very interesting.

Where does Bumgarner rank on list of FA starters?

Nov. 1: Bumgarner's free-agent value is difficult to quantify. On one hand, he is now 30 years old, has nearly 2,000 MLB innings (postseason included) on his odometer and posted some troubling metrics last season. Furthermore, the left-hander is expected to receive a qualifying offer from the Giants, and if he rejects it, other teams will need to forfeit one or more Draft picks to sign him. As Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel found out last season, free agency can be unkind to pitchers in their 30s who rejected a qualifying offer.

On the other, Bumgarner has an excellent track record that includes perhaps the greatest postseason resume of any starting pitcher, and he's coming off a 207 2/3-inning, 203-strikeout campaign.

The Athletic's (subscription required) Aaron Gleeman still sees some potential upside in Bumgarner, ranking him fourth on the list of the top 20 free-agent starters after Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Zack Wheeler. If Strasburg uses his opt-out clause as leverage to negotiate a new deal with the Nationals instead of testing the open market, it would bump Bumgarner up to third.

Wheeler, another qualifying-offer candidate, is only 10 months younger than Bumgarner and not nearly as accomplished. However, he has thrown roughly 1,200 fewer MLB innings and is among the hardest throwers in baseball, which explains why he might be more highly coveted than the veteran southpaw.

Cardinals expected to target left-handed starters

Oct. 22: Offense might be the Cardinals' biggest concern after the club scored just six runs -- with four of them coming in Game 4 -- and hit .130/.195/.179 in a National League Championship Series sweep at the hands of the Nationals. But St. Louis is also expected to assess the rotation this offseason.

Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha are headed for free agency, leaving two holes that need to be filled. And while Jack Flaherty emerged as an ace in 2019, ground-ball specialist Dakota Hudson and control artist Miles Mikolas are more suited to be back-end starters than the Cardinals' second and third options.

The Cardinals' rotation has skewed right-handed for quite some time, with just 14 starts going to left-handers over the past three seasons combined, so it might make sense for the team to target a southpaw in free agency. Available lefties will include Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Cole Hamels, Rich Hill and Dallas Keuchel.

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bumgarner is "on the list" of pitchers the Cards will target, but not atop it.

Bumgarner, 30, may have the greatest contract demands among the pitchers mentioned above, as he is the youngest in the group and arguably has the best resume. He's also likely to receive a qualifying offer from the Giants, and rejecting it would attach Draft-pick compensation requirements to him. Ryu and Keuchel received a qualifying offer last year, so they are ineligible, and Hamels and Hill are unlikely to receive one from their current clubs.

How will teams value Bumgarner on FA market?

Oct. 21: After spending his entire career in San Francisco, Madison Bumgarner could be pitching in a new uniform next season, but his free-agent value is difficult to quantify, as MLB.com's Andrew Simon wrote Saturday.

The left-hander is a postseason legend with a strong regular-season resume, but teams are more reluctant than ever to pay for past performance in free agency. He may also be hindered by the Draft-compensation requirements that will be attached to him if he rejects a qualifying offer.

Bumgarner remained effective in 2019, throwing more than 200 innings for the first time since '16 and recording a 3.90 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and 203 strikeouts. However, his park-adjusted ERA+ was just 107, putting him only slightly above league average, and he allowed more barrels than all but two pitchers. Furthermore, his ERA away from Oracle Park was 5.29, giving pitching-hungry teams a lot to weigh this offseason.

That said, the free-agent market isn't exactly brimming with starters who are significantly better than Bumgarner. The southpaw places in the second tier alongside Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Jake Odorizzi.

Stephen Strasburg could bump those hurlers down a peg by opting out of his contract with the Nationals, but according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the industry expectation is that Strasburg will use his opt-out leverage to get Washington to add a year or two onto his deal. Feinsand also notes that Ryu is expected to remain with the Dodgers. Gerrit Cole is in the top tier by himself, but his contract demands may limit his market to a select few high-payroll clubs.

Postseason included, Bumgarner has nearly 2,000 MLB innings on his odometer, while Odorizzi has just over 1,000 and Wheeler fewer than 800. But among the three, only Bumgarner has proven to be a 200-inning ace at any point, which could tip the scales in his favor.

Are Cards more likely to address rotation or offense in free agency?

Oct. 16: With their moves last offseason to trade for and lock up Paul Goldschmidt and then sign Matt Carpenter to an extension, the Cardinals seemingly had their corner-infield spots settled for at least a few years. But Carpenter's production fell off a cliff in 2019, as the veteran posted a 91 OPS+ after recording a 131 mark from 2012-18. He also became a defensive liability at the hot corner, and he ended up getting just 17 plate appearances over St. Louis' nine postseason games as he ceded playing time to Tommy Edman.

After the Cards were swept by the Nationals in the National League Championship Series, resolving the third-base situation is one of the offseason questions the team will need to answer, as Dave Schoenfield wrote for ESPN+ (subscription required) on Wednesday.

The market will have a number of attractive third-base options, and St. Louis may need to replace a key middle-of-the-order bat if left fielder Marcell Ozuna departs as a free agent. Could the Cardinals go after Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson?

The club usually isn't a big player at the top of the free-agent market, which may rule out Rendon, but Donaldson could be a fit. The veteran was mentioned as a potential target for St. Louis last year before he signed a one-year, $23 million deal with the Braves in late November. The Cardinals acquired Goldschmidt soon after, bumping Carpenter to third-base to fill their hot-corner vacancy.

That said, signing Donaldson would make Carpenter an expensive bench bat, as he is owed $37 million over the 2020-21 seasons, and the Cardinals already have a defensively limited player in José Martínez coming off the bench.

The Cards seem more likely to invest in the rotation, with Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha headed for free agency and Carlos Martínez potentially remaining in the bullpen after a successful run as the team's closer. Even if St. Louis brings back Wainwright, Schoenfield suggests it could pursue a veteran starter such as Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler or Hyun-Jin Ryu, with Gerrit Cole probably out of their price range.

Will Bumgarner, Smith receive qualifying offers?

Oct. 4: The Giants are a team in transition coming off their third straight season with a sub-.500 record. Longtime manager Bruce Bochy retired, a number of key veterans, including Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, are headed for free agency, and the Giants will need to decide whether to extend qualifying offers to them.

According to NBC Sports' Alex Pavlovic, the 30-year-old Bumgarner is "a lock" to receive a qualifying offer, and the team is "strongly considering" giving one to the 30-year-old Smith as well.

"I will say kind of at the outset of free agency, we have interest in at least having discussions about those guys coming back," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said.

Per the qualifying offer rules, a team receives Draft-pick compensation when one of its free agents rejects a QO and then signs elsewhere. The risk for the Giants is that both players could opt to accept the offer, but having both Bumgarner and Smith on one-year deals for roughly $18 million each wouldn't be the worst outcome for San Francisco.

We could start to see more free agents accept the qualifying offer given how the market has played out for some veterans in recent years. Last offseason, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel rejected QOs from their respective teams and ended up going unsigned until after the 2019 MLB Draft, at which point teams no longer needed to forfeit a pick to sign them.

Keuchel ended up signing with the Braves for one year and $13 million, while Kimbrel joined the Cubs for three years and $42 million, plus a $16 million club option ($1 million buyout) in 2022.

Giants announce Bumgarner won't start regular-season finale

Sept. 28: Bumgarner was scheduled to start the Giants' regular-season finale Sunday against the Dodgers, which also happens to be manager Bruce Bochy's final game before retirement.

However, Bochy announced Friday that Bumgarner will not start Game 162 as expected, officially ending Bumgarner’s 2019 campaign and potentially bringing his career with the Giants to a close.

“He’s been out there every start,” Bochy said. “He’s pitched enough. The game is not going to determine anything. He has a lot of baseball left. I’d just like to take care of him, so he’s not going to pitch."

Giants have had ongoing discussions with Bumgarner's reps

Sept. 23: Although Bumgarner is set to reach free agency for the first time after an outstanding career in San Francisco, it's not a foregone conclusion that he'll depart the Giants.

The club could make Bumgarner a one-year qualifying offer, and after watching the wait Dallas Keuchel endured after rejecting a QO last offseason, Bumgarner might be tempted to accept.

The Giants could also offer the 30-year-old a long-term deal. While that seems less likely with the club in rebuilding mode, Giants president and CEO Larry Baer recently made it clear that the team has maintained talks with Bumgarner's representatives this year.

"I think Farhan has had ongoing discussions with his representatives throughout the 2019 season," Baer told Henry Shulman of the San Francisco Chronicle on the "Giants Splash" podcast. "I don’t want to get into what is or isn’t being discussed, but I know they’ve kept open lines of communication."