SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are still more than two months from what will be one of the most important trade deadlines in franchise history, but team officials aren't waiting around for July 31 to get closer.
The prep work started long ago, with the front office identifying potential fits for their most tradable players. The biggest fish is Madison Bumgarner, and as some in the organization started to scout potential destinations, they found themselves laughing over a similarity.
The Giants have a pretty good idea of the teams, fewer than a dozen, that could realistically make a deal work, and when Bumgarner and his representatives presented their updated no-trade list, they had hit just about every option. The list, first reported by The Athletic, is a slick one.
Forget about location or the DH or any of that. Bumgarner picked eight teams that should be contending and could be in need of a starter: the Braves, Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals.
A few of those teams have scouted him already, but the Braves on Thursday will become just the second, joining the Yankees, to face him this year, and the Braves long have been rumored as a top choice. Atlanta is as close as it gets to Bumgarner's North Carolina home, and the young team certainly could use a seasoned starter to lead a potential postseason rotation.
The Braves have key members of their front office, including GM Alex Anthopoulos -- who worked with Farhan Zaidi in Los Angeles and spent plenty of time with him this week -- in San Francisco, but if they truly are after Bumgarner, they could find themselves in the middle of a staring contest.
Bumgarner put together a list that would allow him to keep some leverage and control, but the Giants do not seem all that worried. Ultimately, a trade is best for Bumgarner's financial future because it would keep the Giants from hitting him with the qualifying offer that shrunk the markets of Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel and others.
Some rival officials surveyed in recent weeks on Bumgarner's next deal are split. There are certainly plenty of admirers still out there in front offices, but most say Bumgarner will definitely be hurt if he's attached to a draft pick.
The Giants do not seem to be anticipating having to pay any sort of assignment bonus to Bumgarner in order for him to accept a trade, although it's possible a new team could do so in order to make a deal come together more quickly and get an extra start or two out of the left-hander. Bumgarner also could ask for a window to negotiate an extension with a new team, although again, his best shot at a huge payday is true free agency.
It's common for veterans to have some sort of no-trade protection -- just about every high-salaried Giant has a clause in his contract -- but it's relatively rare for a player to actually block a trade at the deadline. Adam Jones was a notable exception last year, rejecting a proposed trade from the Orioles to the Phillies.
"I earned this, and it's my decision," he said at the time.
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Part of this will be Bumgarner's decision, too, and he has said repeatedly that he would like to stay in San Francisco long-term. But he now plays for an organization that has accepted the high likelihood of a Bumgarner trade this summer, and people close to the pitcher say the constant losing has weighed heavily on him. More than anything, Bumgarner wants another shot at October, and ultimately the teams on his no-trade list are the ones who can give him that opportunity.
The odds are good he'll end up in one of those eight spots. The Braves are one of them, and they'll get their best look at a potential target this afternoon.