The San Francisco Giants are more likely than not going to be sellers before the July 31 Major League Baseball trade deadline. Although they have won five straight games and been playing a lot better as of late, the Giants have struggled for most of the year in all aspects of the game and will look to sell bigger names such as Madison Bumgarner.
Bumgarner is a Giants legend, leading them to World Series titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. But with San Francisco looking to head in a different direction and rebuild through their farm system, they will look to deal Bumgarner for a package of prospects that can help them in the near future.
The 10-year veteran is having a respectable season, going 5-7 with a 3.86 ERA in 20 starts. He has also recorded 121 strikeouts in just 116.2 innings while giving up just 25 free passes. Bumgarner isn’t the same pitcher who once possessed a mid 90’s heater from the left side, but he’s still very effective thanks to his deception, ability to change speeds, and hit his spots.
Bumgarner barely cracks 90 mph anymore, but he can pitch deep into games and brings a lot of playoff experience, which could benefit several teams who could use another quality arm in their rotation. When it comes to the best landing spots for Bumgarner, the Houston Astros and New York Yankees jump off the page.
The Astros have a team ERA of 3.94, but that doesn’t reflect how good their top three starters have been. The one-two punch at the top of their rotation of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole is absolutely lights out. Verlander is 11-4 with a 2.98 ERA, while Cole is 9-5 with a 3.23 ERA. Wade Miley and, when healthy, Brad Peacock round out their rotation, with several pitchers filling the fifth spot throughout the year. Their top three starters, which includes Miley, have been great, but imagine adding a quality arm like Bumgarner as your number three starter? The Astros would be practically unstoppable, along with their already elite offense.
Come playoff time, having three arms who are among some of the best in the game, paired with their postseason experience, would make the Astros a tough out. Although the Astros are almost certainly going to make the playoffs this year, the need for another starting pitcher becomes more evident by the day. They have used relievers as their number five starter throughout the year, and it hasn’t worked out very well.
Reliever Josh James started against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night and threw one scoreless inning, only to hand the ball off to left-hander Frandy Valdez — who got lit up for seven runs in just four innings. The top-end of their rotation is strong, so why not make it even stronger by adding an elite lefty like Bumgarner?
New York Yankees
The Yankees have a relatively strong rotation with Domingo German, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, C.C. Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka. However, Happ and Sabathia are aging by the day, and German and Paxton have never even pitched in the postseason. German has the best ERA among Yankees starters at 3.40 and has also won 11 games, but again, the experience on the big stage isn’t there.
Even though the Yankees have five starters, adding Bumgarner would be huge, especially because he brings a lot of playoff experience and has shown the ability to pitch deep into games on a consistent basis. New York has the best record in the American League, and given their powerful lineup, there’s a very good chance that they could be playing deep into October. Adding an arm like Bumgarner would be a fantastic move for the Yankees, as he can serve as the leader of their rotation, and like the left-hander has proven in the past, he’s able to pitch on the big stage. His career 2.11 postseason ERA reflects that.
A Change of Scenery
Some may think Bumgarner is on the decline, given his subpar last couple of seasons. But look at Verlander. In 2017, the right-hander was struggling to be the same electric pitcher he was with the Detroit Tigers earlier in the decade, but a change of scenery revitalized his career, as he cemented himself, once again, as one of the best arms in baseball.
This could very well happen to Bumgarner if he gets moved before July 31. We all know what he’s capable of on the mound; it just may take some new surroundings for him to find his old self, who was once one of the most dominant starters in the game. Bumgarner is a free agent at the end of the season, but if he excels with his new team, he could sign a long-term deal with them like Verlander did a year and a half after he was traded to the Astros.
Whether it’s the Astros or Yankees that go all in to acquire Madison Bumgarner, they will be getting a quality starter who isn’t afraid of the big moment.