Madison Bumgarner forever will be a Giants legend for his 2014 playoff heroics. There was no way that former general manager Bobby Evans could emotionally separate Bumgarner from the Giants and trade the team's ace.
Farhan Zaidi, the Giants' president head of baseball operations, doesn't hold the same history with Bumgarner, though, and that could be a good thing, writes ESPN's Buster Olney, who believes the left-hander's recent production shows the team should entertain a trade now sooner than later.
Bumgarner is 29 years old, and is scheduled to hit the open market after the 2019 season when his eight-year, $58.06 million contract comes to an end. Injuries from a dirt bike accident and a line drive off his hand in his last start of spring training have sidelined Bumgarner the last two years. When healthy and on the field, though, he hasn't been his former dominant self.
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Over the last two years, Bumgarner has started 38 games, or four less than his dominant 2016 season. In that span, he has gone 10-16 with a 3.29 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 240.2 innings. It might all start with his slight dip in velocity.
Since 2014, Bumgarner's average fastball, four-seam or two-seam, has slightly been slower, according to numbers from FanGraphs. He sat at 92.1 mph in 2014, was the same in 2015, fell to 90.9 in 2016, bumped up to 91 mph in 2017, and was back down to 90.9 mph this past season.
Bumgarner also relied much more on his off-speed pitches than his fastball in 2018, according to FanGraphs. The lefty threw his fastball just 34.2 percent of the time last season, the lowest percentage of his MLB career. His fastball was heavily replaced by his curveball, which he threw a career-high 22.8 percent.
The rate of hard contact by opposing batters against Bumgarner also has increased every year since 2014, and reached a career high in 2018. According to FanGraphs, since 2014, Bumgarner's hard contact rate has gone from 26.9 percent, to 27.8 percent, to 31.6 percent, to 35 percent, and finally all the way to 41.6 percent last season.
Here's the reality of the situation: The Giants have been awful the last two seasons, and while Bumgarner has been far from that, he's simply not his past self. He has to rely more on his off-speed as his fastball is slower and less effective, and batters are hitting him harder and harder.
A contender will pony up for Bumgarner because of his playoff history, and he still can be at least a No. 2 on a playoff team. Is now the time to take advantage of the market?
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“Where we are, everything has to be on the table in terms of how we move this team and roster forward,” Zaidi said on a possible Bumgarner trade at his Giants introductory press conference.
No matter if it's figuratively or literally, Bumgarner will go down as a Forever Giant. How much longer he toes the rubber at AT&T Park could be a different story, though.