The Giants ace may be on the decline statistically, but his strategic move might land him a massive new contract with a contender.
MadBum is a MadGenius looking for MadCash.
That’s one way of looking at one of the great power plays in MLB trade history. Last week, San Francisco Giants ace pitcher Madison Bumgarner submitted a list of eight teams he would use his no-trade clause to block any deal. That list was: The New York Yankees, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
Those teams are all playoff contenders eagerly trying to win. That list also happens to include the playoff contenders with the deepest pockets. The question now becomes, is one of those teams willing to give Bumgarner the type of long-term deal to waive his no-trade clause similar players have been hard-pressed to get in free agency?
In other words, don’t misread the situation. This is not Bumgarner, a bona fide World Series star, trying to avoid playing for a contender. It’s Bumgarner saying to the baseball world that he’ll play for a contender under one condition: Pay my price.
For Bumgarner, who will be 30 on August 1, this is a major leverage play. When it comes to contenders, pitching is always in demand. For the first nine years of his career, Bumgarner sold low on that vital commodity, giving the Giants a team-friendly deal five years ago. As a result, Bumgarner had made $57.5 million over his nine-year career.
While no one is feeling sorry for Bumgarner, he obviously left a tremendous amount of money on the table with the long-term deal he signed. By this point, a pitcher of Bumgarner’s ability easily would have made over $100 million. But Bumgarner traded security for risk early in his career.
Right now, there’s no reason for him to do that again. He’s making it clear he won’t let the Giants trade him without a big pay day coming his way. While some may scoff at this strong-arm tactic, consider two names: Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel. Both of those pitchers are still sitting out this season, unable to get the deals they believed they were worth. Kimbrel is only one of the best relievers in baseball history and Keuchel is one of the most consistent starters in the game over the past five years.
For Bumgarner, who has a 3.88 ERA, a 1.168 ratio and a 2-4 record this season, waiting for free agency is problematic. While he has bounced back somewhat from a subpar 2018 season, his talent and pure stuff have clearly declined the past two years.
With baseball teams drawing a hard line on the value of contracts, Bumgarner is drawing a hard line on what it will take to get him to waive his no-trade clause. Of course, one of the other contenders could foil his plan.
Tampa, Seattle, Cleveland, Minnesota, Arizona, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego are the top teams not on Bumgarner’s list. Basically, any of those teams could pick him up for whatever remains of his $12 million salary for this season. That could be roughly $5 to $8 million depending on when he’s dealt.
But Bumgarner knows each of those teams is either cash-strapped (Tampa, Seattle, Cleveland, Minnesota, Arizona and San Diego) or loaded with pitching (the cash-cow Dodgers) or some level or both. Also, the idea of the Giants trading Bumgarner to the Dodgers is something of a stretch, although not impossible.
That means that some big-spending team like the Yankees or Boston may face a tough decision. In order to chase a World Series championship this season, is one of them willing to give Bumgarner a five- or six-year deal worth $100 to $125 million? Based on the market (look at Yu Darvish’s six-year, $126 million deal from Chicago in 2018 as a very reasonable comp for Bumgarner), that could be an interesting decision.