Giants

MLB free agency: Analysts predict Madison Bumgarner signs with Braves

MLB free agency: Analysts predict Madison Bumgarner signs with Braves

The Giants' offseason is full of question marks. Who will be their manager? Who's their next general manager? What's going on with the bullpens? Will they add a big-name free agent? 

The biggest question, however, is what will happen to their own star free agent? Madison Bumgarner, at 30 years old, is a free agent for the first time and could be saying goodbye to the only team he has known for more than a decade. 

At some point soon, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and the rest of the front office will have to decide how much of a priority keeping Bumgarner is. At the same time, MadBum has to decide what his priorities in free agency are. 

The current safe assumption is that Giants fans gave Bumgarner a goodbye on Game 162 this past season when pinch-hit against Clayton Kershaw. Sources have told NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic the Atlanta Braves have made Bumgarner a priority and planned to quickly communicate that to the former World Series hero. 

Those around the league seem to have the sense that Bumgarner could be headed to the Braves, too. An ESPN panel of Buster Olney, Bradford Doolittle and David Schoenfield all predicted the four-time All-Star will be in Atlanta on Opening Day. MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince also placed MadBum on the Braves in a Thursday predictions piece. 

Imagining Bumgarner wearing a uniform besides the Giants' orange and black seems nearly impossible to do. Admit it, though, you can see him in a Braves jersey. The signing would make plenty of sense, too. 

The Braves are on the brink of World Series contention and need a veteran like Bumgarner to lead their young staff. With pitchers like Mike Soroka, Mike Foltynewicz and Max Fried already in the rotation, Bumgarner could be the perfect addition. He likely also won't break the bank, too.

Bumgarner has been considered perhaps the most fascinating free agent on the market this offseason, for many reasons. 

[RELATED: How MadBum's free agency fits into the Giants' rebuild]

Are teams paying for the greatest playoffs pitcher of all time, or are they getting an aging pitcher with declining velocity and a ton of miles on his arm? Bumgarner also led the league this season with 34 games started. He pitched 207 2/3 innings in his first full season since 2016 and struck out 203 batters. But he was terrible on the road, posting a 5.29 ERA, and that could be a concern for teams vying to sign him.

Put Bumgarner in another postseason race, however, and Atlanta could claim a World Series ring for the first time since 1995.

Bumgarner is quite the free agent test case, but if he leaves the Giants, it's easy to see the North Carolina native call Atlanta his new home.

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

With the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, MLB free agency is heating up.

One of the top available pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner -- is expected to be in high demand, particularly now that Cole Hamels has signed with the Braves and Zack Wheeler reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract with the Phillies. For teams who scoff at Gerrit Cole's price tag, Bumgarner might be the logical compromise.

The Giants have been "in communication" with Bumgarner, but rumor has it another interested team has entered the mix.

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Thursday that the St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to Bumgarner, citing a source.

St. Louis already has brought back veteran Adam Wainright on a one-year deal, and after he, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, there appears to be an opening for Bumgarner in the starting rotation. Signing with the Cardinals would not only allow Bumgarner to continue pitching in the National League, but would also allow him to continue taking his own at-bats, which we know he loves so much. He also has been linked to teams such as the Twins and White Sox, but would forfeit his at-bats to a DH in each of those situations.

[RELATED: How Wheeler's reported $118M contract could affect MadBum]

While Bumgarner is expected to receive a contract in excess of $100 million, Feinsand suggests Wheeler's reported $118 million payday might serve to increase the total.

MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

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MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

Gerrit Cole is far and away the gem of the 2019 MLB free-agent class.

The former Pirates and Astros ace led the American League in both ERA and strikeouts last season and finished just behind teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race.

The team that historically always has had the deepest pockets in baseball -- the New York Yankees -- have made Cole a priority in free agency, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday, citing a source.

Cole is a Southern California native with familial ties to the Giants, a team that also features one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the MLB. San Francisco also has been mentioned as a destination for the ace, who reportedly desires a return to the West Coast.

But if the Yankees, who always have jumped to outbid every other team for talent in free agency, decide to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for the 29-year-old, the Giants might be swiftly eliminated from contention for Cole.

Reports indicate that Cole’s price tag will “shatter” the record set by David Price when he signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2015.

[RELATED: Report: Giants targeted UGA's pitching coach for same role]

While San Francisco has plenty of money to spend this offseason, it likely won’t engage in a bidding war that could approach $300 million.

Even if longtime Giant and current free agent Madison Bumgarner elects to go elsewhere in free agency, it remains to be seen how much money San Francisco would be willing to shell out for an elite talent like Cole in the heart of his prime.