Farhan Zaidi is tasked with a not-so-easy question in his first offseason as Giants president of baseball operations: Should he trade Madison Bumgarner before the last year of his team-friendly contract, or hold onto the World Series hero?
“Where we are, everything has to be on the table in terms of how we move this team and roster forward,” Zaidi said at his introductory press conference in response to a question about Bumgarner.
As the hot stove begins to heat up, teams have reportedly called San Francisco's front office to see their level of interest in a Bumgarner trade. According to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Phillies and Braves "are among the teams that have had preliminary dialogue." He also reports Zaidi would want a top pitching prospect in return.
Shaun Anderson, the Giants' top pitching prospect, who is ranked as San Francisco's No. 3 prospect, is seen more as a No. 3 starter in the future.
Now only two days after Morosi's report, a new Bumgarner story has emerged that pins the Giants as having less interest in actually letting go of their ace.
Some evaluators who've been in contact with the Giants don't think SF will seriously entertain and weigh offers for Madison Bumgarner. We'll see.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 28, 2018
Bumgarner becomes a free agent after the 2019 season. The Giants certainly don't want him to walk for free. They can either re-sign him this offseason, during the 2019 season or have confidence they can bring him back in the 2020 offseason. Keeping Bumgarner now also brings up two other possibilities: 1. Zaidi is trying to build a roster that can win now or 2. Zaidi believes he can get more for Bumgarner at the trade deadline.
[RELATED: Five teams that make sense if Giants trade Madison Bumgarner]
The past two seasons, Bumgarner has only started 38 games due to two freak accidents. He averaged 32 starts per season the previous six seasons before that. But over those 38 starts, his production has decreased.
In that span, Bumgarner has gone 10-16 with a 3.29 ERA and 210 strikeouts in 240.2 innings. His average fastball velocity also dipped to 90.9 mph, the lowest of his career since his rookie season, and the rate of hard contact by opposing batters against him was a career-high 41.6 percent.
What's even more staggering, is Bumgarner's numbers away from AT&T Park last season. At home, he went 4-3 with a 1.63 ERA. But on the road, Jekyll turned to Hyde. The ace became far from that, going 2-4 with a 4.97 ERA.
Make no mistake though, if Bumgarner proves to be an ace in his contract year while the Giants go into sell mode at the trade deadline, the team could get a big-time prospect package for him in July.
Zaidi and the rest of the front office have a decision they need to make sooner than later. Either hang on to Bumgarner for now and until at least the deadline, or start making and answering some calls.