Madison Bumgarner is hitting the free-agent market for the first time in his career, but the longtime Giants ace might not be in for the payday he once expected.
Bumgarner, 30, solidified his legacy as perhaps the greatest postseason pitcher of all time. That, however, was back in 2014. He's a much different pitcher now, and could be headed for a new home.
Just how much will he make in free agency, though? The Athletic's Jim Bowden predicts Bumgarner will sign a four-year, $84 million contract. For comparison's sake, Bowden has Gerrit Cole, the consensus top free agent, signing a record eight-year, $288 million deal.
Is Cole really going to make over $200 million more than Bumgarner? All it takes is one general manager to outbid the others for MadBum's services, but he won't even be in the same ballpark as Cole.
Despite pitching at least 200 innings the past three seasons, Cole has relatively no wear and tear on his right arm. The 29-year-old has 1,260 2/3 innings under his belt between the regular season and the playoffs over his seven-year career. Bumgarner, just 13 months older than Cole, already has thrown 1,947 1/3 innings in his career.
In his first full season since 2016, Bumgarner looked like a workhorse again in 2019. He led the majors with 34 starts and pitched 207 2/3 innings. He also struck out 203 batters, good for 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings. Cole led all of baseball in strikeouts (326) and SO/9 (13.8) while also throwing 212 1/3 innings.
Front offices around the game will have to decide which Bumgarner they are signing. Can this version of the former World Series hero age well, or is his declining velocity too alarming with a scary amount of miles on his left arm? MadBum also was bad away from the pitcher-friendly Oracle Park, which could easily be a red flag for general managers.
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Cole has been one of the best -- if not the best -- pitcher in baseball the past two seasons, and looks like he's built to last. He will break David Price's record of $217 million for a starting pitcher, and he could even obliterate it.
A team on the cusp of World Series contention like the Braves, Astros, Phillies or even the reigning champion Nationals could possibly hand Bumgarner a $100 million contract. For someone with such a storied career, his free agency should be fascinating to watch.