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.

Brandon Crawford creates Giants fan favorites bracket to fill tournament void

Brandon Crawford creates Giants fan favorites bracket to fill tournament void

When the Giants moved into their new clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium last month, a young reliever looked up at the ceiling and smiled. There were 10 flat screen televisions hanging all around the room. 

"This is going to be great for the tourney," he said, smiling. 

Yes, when it comes to March Madness, the Giants are no different than their fans. They fill out brackets, pay close attention to games ending in the morning, and check in on scores when they come out of Cactus League games. That was one of the many experiences that was missed this month when COVID-19 shut down the sports world, forcing the NCAA to cancel the men's and women's basketball tournaments.

But Brandon Crawford has tried to fill some of that void for Giants fans. 

Crawford put together the #BCrawBracket, which is being voted on by his followers on Twitter and Instagram. The shortstop and lifelong Giants fan seeded 64 players from the 1990-2009 teams and asked Giants fans to vote for their favorites. 

On Monday, I asked Crawford how this all came together.

"First of all," he said, "I love brackets."

On what would have been Opening Day, Crawford asked his Twitter followers to choose between four bracket ideas: Best cereal; best candy; best hip-hop artist/group; and favorite Giants player. The last category won with 45 percent of the vote, although Crawford -- knowing how much research would go into that one -- wasn't necessarily hoping it would. 

"Then I was thinking, do I go all-time Giants? Do I go current Giants or recent?" he said. "But then I'd have to rank guys that I've played with or am currently playing with. So that didn't seem like it would be very fun."

Crawford ended up ranking fan favorites who got any service time between 1990 -- the first year he can remember going to games -- through 2009. He didn't debut for the team until 2011, but set the cutoff before 2010 because that first championship team would have skewed the voting. 

"I thought what would be kind of cool for me also is that it's kind of my entire Giants fan years," he said. "I was thinking like a fan, kind of, during those years for the most part. I was trying to think about (this bracket) how a fan potentially would."

Crawford grew up attending games at Candlestick Park, so he was able to put together most of the bracket just off memory. He called his dad, Mike, and got some additional names -- like Rick Reuschel -- from the early 90s teams. He also sprinkled in a few of his own favorites, like Emmanuel Burriss, an infielder who never turned into an everyday player for the Giants but did have a huge impact on another young shortstop coming through the system. 

"There's obviously some personal bias in a couple of them," Crawford said. "He was almost like my mentor coming up. He was telling me what was expected of me."

The voting started Saturday on Crawford's Twitter page and Instagram story (there will be two different end results). Most of the early matchups were blowouts, although Russ Ortiz -- who would solicit votes in Round 2 -- did beat Jose Uribe 52-48. He said he hasn't been surprised much thus far, and on Monday he unveiled the Sweet 16, which included 15 of the top 16 seeds, with only Brian Wilson crashing the party after beating No. 3 seed Robby Thompson. 

[RELATED: Kapler revealed Crawford created self in 2K]

Crawford has been getting about 4,000 votes in every Twitter poll, with fans confirming his initial suspicions that players who were on that 2010 team would get extra support. For instance, Royce Clayton, one of Crawford's childhood heroes got blown out as the No. 9 seed against No. 8 Edgar Renteria. 

"That was a tough one. That was a tough one for me," Crawford said. "Did he really deserve a nine seed? I don't know. He got beat out by a World Series MVP, though, so it's understandable."

Gabe Kapler highlights three Giants who stood out in spring training

Gabe Kapler highlights three Giants who stood out in spring training

At this point, Gabe Kapler was supposed to have his first handful of regular-season games under his belt as the Giants' manager. Just like everything else in the sports world, though, all has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Before MLB canceled spring training games and delayed Opening Day, the Giants did go 6-4 this spring. Wins and losses are far from the most important result during camp, but Kapler certainly will take a winning record any way he can. 

Before baseball hit pause, a trio of players really stood out to Kapler. One of them still has a ways to go before making his MLB debut, but this prospect made a great first impression on his future manager. 

"I thought that Hunter Bishop coming over made a really good impression on all of us," Kapler said. "And he's a first-round pick, he's got the pedigree, he's got the power. I thought about his swing and it's so violent, very similar to the way Bryce Harper is. Harper's is violent."

Make no mistake. Kapler doesn't want Bishop to be labeled as the next Harper. Top prospects already have enough pressure on them.

"By the way, I'm not comparing Hunter to Bryce Harper," Kapler said. "What I am saying is there's some similarities in their personality and their hustle and the way they play the game like their hair's on fire.

"So, Hunter made a really strong impression."

Bishop, the Giants' top pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, only had one hit over eight at-bats in big league camp. He clearly caught Kapler's eyes, however, and the Giants expect a big year from the powerful outfielder.

As far as the major-league side of performances go, two pitchers really impressed Kapler: Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly. 

"I think we all got excited about Kevin Gausman," Kapler said.

Kapler praised Gausman's splitter and breaking ball. The veteran right-hander went 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA over 10 1/3 innings. 

Kapler managed Smyly, who didn't allow an earned run this spring, last season on the Philadelphia Phillies. Kapler said this was the best he has seen the lefty in quite some time. 

[RELATED: Kapler reveals Crawford created self in NBA video game]

"Drew Smyly's arm looked great," Kapler said. "This is a guy who really started to get stronger and stronger as the season went on last year in Philadelphia when I managed over there. And he looked great then, but he looked better now. The ball just really was carrying through the zone.

"His ability to put his slider at the backfoot of a right-handed hitter, the ability to drop a curveball in for a strike, all of those things are reason for excitement when we get back to baseball."

Both pitchers are expected to be key contributors in the Giants' rotation. As we wait for baseball to eventually return, these two hurlers gave their skipper plenty of reasons for optimism out in Arizona.