Giants

MLB free agency: Madison Bumgarner turns down Giants' qualifying offer

MLB free agency: Madison Bumgarner turns down Giants' qualifying offer

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the trade deadline approached and the 2019 Giants started to get a little frisky on the field, there was some talk around the game that Madison Bumgarner would be better off getting traded regardless of what the team's record was, eliminating the chance that he would be saddled with a qualifying offer. 

Asked about that possibility, Bumgarner gave the kind of look you would expect to be reserved for Joe West. He was never concerned about a diminished market or sitting out half a season like Dallas Keuchel. Bumgarner has always believed the right options will be there in free agency, and now he'll get to test them out. 

Bumgarner officially declined the $17.8 million qualifying offer from the Giants on Thursday, joining eight of the 10 big leaguers who had a decision to make. The Twins' Jake Odorizzi and White Sox Jose Abreu decided to take the money upfront and try again in free agency next year. 

Bumgarner's agents have already spoken to interested teams, and they know what's out there. The left-hander does not plan to pull a Keuchel, and there's already reported interest from the likes of the Yankees, Padres and Phillies. The Braves, who signed Will Smith on Thursday, are also expected to make a run at Bumgarner, who is from nearby North Carolina. 

[RELATED: How Smith signing with Braves affects Giants' bullpen]

Then there are the Giants, who would recoup two top 100 draft picks if Bumgarner joins Will Smith in leaving the organization. Management has kept quiet about the offseason intentions, but there's a chance that Bumgarner circles back at some point over the next month to see if a deal can be struck. He has shown interest in coming back to San Francisco, but he's also eager to see what's out there in free agency. 

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 Wainwright 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.