MLB rumors: Madison Bumgarner, D-backs agree to five-year, $85M contract

MLB rumors: Madison Bumgarner, D-backs agree to five-year, $85M contract

SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner took his batting helmet off and tipped it to all corners of Oracle Park, acknowledging a crowd that had come to see Bruce Bochy's final game and hoped to get a glimpse of the manager's longtime ace. It looked to most in attendance that day like Bumgarner was saying goodbye to the Giants and their fans. It turns out he was.

The Madison Bumgarner Era, one of the most successful and thrilling in franchise history, reportedly has reached its end. According to multiple reports, Bumgarner and the Arizona Diamondbacks have agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract.

ESPN's Jeff Passan, who first reported an agreement was near, also reported that Arizona was MadBum's top choice, and the deal was complete once the D-backs decided to give him a five-year contract. 

This was not a surprise that Bumgarner isn't returning to the Giants, or at least it shouldn't be to anyone following closely. The Giants stayed in touch with Bumgarner's camp but were never at the forefront of talks as he hit free agency for the first time, focusing instead on a rebuild that will lead to significant roster changes. Bumgarner expected to be traded throughout much of the first half of 2019, but a winning streak before the deadline kept him in San Francisco two additional months. 

If you go back further, this day has been looming for years. The Giants gave Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt massive extensions and spent $220 million on Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, but they never ripped up the below-market deal Bumgarner signed as a 22-year-old. The sides played it out until the end of the contract, never coming close to an extension as free agency approached.

Still, for as much as this was telegraphed, it is still a body blow for a fan base that has taken quite a few uppercuts in recent months. 

Bumgarner won more games as a Giant than any other member of the dynasty, going 119-92 with a 3.13 ERA in 11 seasons. He is fourth in franchise history with 1,794 strikeouts and started more games as a San Francisco Giants than anyone other than Juan Marichal and Matt Cain. 

For all that he did in the regular season, Bumgarner will be forever known for his October heroics. He is the best big-game pitcher of his generation, twice throwing shutouts in the Wild Card Game and dragging the Giants to a third title with 52 2/3 masterful innings in the 2014 playoffs. Bumgarner capped that run, the likes of which we will likely never see again, with a five-inning save in Game 7 of the World Series. He finishes his time with the Giants with a 0.25 ERA in World Series appearances.

[RELATED: Giants appreciated how Kershaw handled Bumgarner's moment]

Bumgarner was beloved for much more than the pitching dominance, though. It was appropriate that his final appearance came as a pinch-hitter, because he hit 19 homers in 11 seasons, becoming a mythical figure in San Francisco. There was seemingly nothing he couldn't will himself to when standing between the lines, but that run is officially over for the Giants and their fans.

The Giants are moving in a different direction, building towards 2021 and beyond and turning their pitching staff over to the next wave. It will be a painful process at times, and the organization might look back at this day as the hardest one of them all.

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players

Giants extend stipends for most minor leaguers but release 20 players

The end of the month brought a bit of good news for most Giants minor leaguers, but a potentially career-ending blow for 20 of them.

The Giants have extended their stipend program for minor leaguers through at least June 30, continuing to guarantee them $400 per week. At the same time, 20 minor league players were released Thursday, continuing a trend around the game.

The releases were not a surprise and did not involve any elite prospects. The players being let go around the game right now -- some estimates are that it could be more than 1,000 minor leaguers -- generally are players who were filling out minor league rosters and had slim chances of soon reaching the big leagues. But this is still a rough time for those players, many of whom will see their dreams end this year as the sport deals with the fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19).

With the draft shortened to five rounds and more than 40 minor league clubs already on the chopping block entering the season, big changes are expected over the next year regarding minor league baseball. Teams generally release prospects at the end of the spring and again before signing a new class of draft picks, but this year's group is larger than past ones. Baseball-America did research that showed teams release 22-25 minor leaguers through May in typical years, with 30-35 still falling in a normal range. The Giants had previously released 17 players in March.

[RELATED: Could Luciano make Giants roster? Zaidi considering it]

While there are some teams that have released significantly more prospects in recent days, others have committed to keeping all of their minor leaguers through the end of what would have been the minor league season. The Giants, by using June 30 as a date for extended pay, fall in line with most of the rest of the sport thus far, although they certainly have the resources to extend the program through August or even later at some point. 

The A's had previously informed minor leaguers that they will not pay players past May 31. When COVID-19 first shut down the sport, MLB announced stipends across the minors through that date.  

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Five Giants hitters who've had much more success when visiting Rockies

Five Giants hitters who've had much more success when visiting Rockies

The Giants and Rockies play 19 times every year, with three series at Coors Field and three at Oracle Park. Those games could not possibly be any more different. 

The ones in San Francisco tend to end with scores like 4-2, 2-1, or, in one wild case last year, 8-5. In Denver, it's predictably a free-for-all. There are normal games, to be sure, but the Giants also won one game last year at Coors Field by a score of 19-2. Another win was 11-8, and there was a 12-11 loss mixed in. 

That's the norm in the season series every year, with wild swings depending on where they play. There's just one real exception, and you know him well. Extrapolate Nolan Arenado's career stats at Oracle Park over a full season and you have 29 homers, 45 doubles and 95 RBI, albeit it with a .819 OPS that's nearly 200 points lower than his career mark at home.

Arenado breaks Giants' hearts no matter where he faces them, and they'll see the digital version of the third baseman in tonight's PlayStation simulation on NBC Sports Bay Area. Tonight's game would have been played in San Francisco, so it likely would have been low-scoring. 

But the Giants-Rockies matchup got us thinking: Which Giants would benefit most from switching ballparks? If you go through the roster, there are some serious outliers. Here are five Giants who stood out for their career numbers at Coors:

Buster Posey

Put Posey on the Rockies for a full season and he might take a run at his second MVP award. In 73 career games at Coors Field, Posey has a .368 average, .435 OBP and .610 slugging percentage that's 172 points higher than his mark in home games. He has 14 homers, his most in any ballpark other than Oracle. 

It all makes perfect sense. Posey has a middle-of-the-field approach, and while Coors is known for being a launching pad, it also has a massive outfield that provides Posey plenty of green to aim at. His .368 average there is the highest among active players and sixth-highest in the ballpark's history for players with more than 250 at-bats. 

The ballpark was particularly helpful in 2012 when he won his MVP award. Posey went 16-for-33 in Denver that year with three homers and nine RBI. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Donovan Solano

Like Posey, this veteran infielder has a solid approach that's tailor-made for the outfield at Coors. Solano went 9-for-18 last year with three homers and five RBI. He first played there in 2012, and overall he has a .306/.328/.597 slash line as a visitor.

Last year's demolition of Coors helped Solano become just the second player since 1979 to hit .400 on the road (minimum 100 plate appearances). He hit .402, joining Ichiro, who batted .405 on the road in 2004. 

Billy Hamilton 

There are others with better numbers -- most notably, Mike Yastrzemski loved Coors as a rookie -- but the new Giants center fielder stands out because he has never been known for his bat. At Coors Field, however, Hamilton has an .875 OPS in 18 games and a .382 OBP that's well above his low career mark (.297). 

Hamilton has never homered at Coors but has six doubles and two triples. He is a perfect 8-for-8 stealing bases. He's a perfect fit for the ballpark defensively, something that'll be fun to watch if the Giants ever make it there this summer. A ball in the gap could put us on inside-the-park watch, too. 

Evan Longoria

He has played most of his career in the American League, but he definitely took advantage of those rare trips to Coors Field, picking up 13 hits and three homers in nine games there while with the Rays. 

Longoria has kept that going as a Giant, and overall he's a .347 hitter in 18 starts at Coors Field, with a .405 OBP, .636 slugging percentage and six homers. Longoria even has four triples, his most in any ballpark other than Tropicana Field. 

[RELATED: Could Luciano make Giants roster? Zaidi considering it]

Wilmer Flores

Gabe Kapler will have some appealing options at first base for his first trip to Denver as a Giant. Brandon Belt has 10 career homers there, including a shot into the third deck a few years ago:

Flores, the right-handed newcomer, has had even more success from an OPS standpoint. He has a 1.054 mark in 15 career games in Denver, buoyed by a .423 on-base percentage. He has driven in 13 runs in just 46 at-bats there.