Giants

Potential trade partner set to get up-close look at Madison Bumgarner

Potential trade partner set to get up-close look at Madison Bumgarner

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are still more than two months from what will be one of the most important trade deadlines in franchise history, but team officials aren't waiting around for July 31 to get closer. 

The prep work started long ago, with the front office identifying potential fits for their most tradable players. The biggest fish is Madison Bumgarner, and as some in the organization started to scout potential destinations, they found themselves laughing over a similarity. 

The Giants have a pretty good idea of the teams, fewer than a dozen, that could realistically make a deal work, and when Bumgarner and his representatives presented their updated no-trade list, they had hit just about every option. The list, first reported by The Athletic, is a slick one.

Forget about location or the DH or any of that. Bumgarner picked eight teams that should be contending and could be in need of a starter: the Braves, Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals. 

A few of those teams have scouted him already, but the Braves on Thursday will become just the second, joining the Yankees, to face him this year, and the Braves long have been rumored as a top choice. Atlanta is as close as it gets to Bumgarner's North Carolina home, and the young team certainly could use a seasoned starter to lead a potential postseason rotation.

The Braves have key members of their front office, including GM Alex Anthopoulos -- who worked with Farhan Zaidi in Los Angeles and spent plenty of time with him this week -- in San Francisco, but if they truly are after Bumgarner, they could find themselves in the middle of a staring contest. 

Bumgarner put together a list that would allow him to keep some leverage and control, but the Giants do not seem all that worried. Ultimately, a trade is best for Bumgarner's financial future because it would keep the Giants from hitting him with the qualifying offer that shrunk the markets of Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel and others. 

Some rival officials surveyed in recent weeks on Bumgarner's next deal are split. There are certainly plenty of admirers still out there in front offices, but most say Bumgarner will definitely be hurt if he's attached to a draft pick. 

The Giants do not seem to be anticipating having to pay any sort of assignment bonus to Bumgarner in order for him to accept a trade, although it's possible a new team could do so in order to make a deal come together more quickly and get an extra start or two out of the left-hander. Bumgarner also could ask for a window to negotiate an extension with a new team, although again, his best shot at a huge payday is true free agency.

It's common for veterans to have some sort of no-trade protection -- just about every high-salaried Giant has a clause in his contract -- but it's relatively rare for a player to actually block a trade at the deadline. Adam Jones was a notable exception last year, rejecting a proposed trade from the Orioles to the Phillies. 

"I earned this, and it's my decision," he said at the time. 

[RELATED: Bochy mixes up pregame routine hoping for quicker starts]

Part of this will be Bumgarner's decision, too, and he has said repeatedly that he would like to stay in San Francisco long-term. But he now plays for an organization that has accepted the high likelihood of a Bumgarner trade this summer, and people close to the pitcher say the constant losing has weighed heavily on him. More than anything, Bumgarner wants another shot at October, and ultimately the teams on his no-trade list are the ones who can give him that opportunity. 

The odds are good he'll end up in one of those eight spots. The Braves are one of them, and they'll get their best look at a potential target this afternoon. 

Bruce Bochy didn't know of Madison Bumgarner's rodeo competition alias

Bruce Bochy didn't know of Madison Bumgarner's rodeo competition alias

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy leaned against the railing of the dugout he called his spring home for over a decade. He smiled when asked about Madison Bumgarner, his longtime ace and close friend. 

"This," Bochy said, "Is the first I'm hearing of Mr. Saunders."

Mr. Saunders -- Mason Saunders, to be exact -- is Bumgarner's alias in team-roping competitions. The Athletic reported Monday that Bumgarner has participated in competitions under an alias, a story that still had teammates laughing a day later, as they prepared to face Bumgarner's Arizona Diamondbacks.

It was sent around in text messages Sunday night as word first got out. 

Bochy was coy when asked about how much he knew over the years. He joked he was a "little disappointed he didn't call me" to compete, but then said that in all seriousness, he's most amazed by the fact that the story didn't leak earlier given "his presence and who he is."

"That's pretty good, really. I knew he was doing some roping, I didn't know it was on the competitive level," Bochy said. "There wasn't going to be any stopping him. I've had players, like (Ryan) Klesko, he was out there surfing. You don't know what they're doing on their own time but to do it on a competitive level, that's pretty impressive how he hid this. 

"And he won, right? I mean, geez, that's even more impressive." 

Bumgarner did win $26,560 in a competition late last year. The Athletic reported on Bumgarner's side gig after the discovery of a photo on a Facebook page showing that Mason Saunders, a man who looked just like Madison Bumgarner, had just won a competition. 

Some former teammates said Monday that they knew Bumgarner was attending rodeos and working on roping in his spare time, but there seemed to be some surprise and amusement at the fact that he was actually competing. It was an open secret in the clubhouse that Bumgarner, who reached mythical figure status after 2014, was doing things often forbidden by standard player contracts. The first public sign of that was when he had a high-profile dirt bike crash in 2017.

Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen told reporters on Monday that he doesn't tell players what they can and cannot do off the field, noting that "Madison is a grown man and we know he's committed to helping us achieve our goals as a team."

[RELATED: What makes young D-backs so excited to play with Bumgarner]

The Giants basically took the same approach. When Bumgarner crashed in 2017 the team could have fined him and helped lower their CBT payroll, but elected not to. The Giants knew Bumgarner was riding horses -- they put him on one for a ceremony even though Bumgarner warned team officials that a horse could be unpredictable in front of 40,000 fans -- and roping.

Bochy said he doesn't think anybody knew he was actually competing. 

"I've got to think that's the end of him being on the rodeo circuit," he said, smiling. 

Four Giants named to Keith Law's top 100 prospects for 2020 MLB season

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AP

Four Giants named to Keith Law's top 100 prospects for 2020 MLB season

The Giants' rising farm system continues to be recognized. San Francisco no longer is at the bottom of rankings as they now have multiple top 100 prospects. 

Most outlets include either three or four Giants in their top 100 lists. The Athletic's Keith Law released his list Monday before the upcoming season, and four Giants prospects made the cut: Joey Bart (44), Heliot Ramos (52), Marco Luciano (58) and Hunter Bishop (87). 

This, however, is the lowest Bart is ranked among the most popular outlets. FanGraphs has him as high as No. 10, while MLB Pipeline has him at No. 14 and Baseball America ranked Bart lower at 32. Law brings up Bart's history of breaking his hands right away in his scouting report. 

Bart broke his non-throwing hand last season with the San Jose Giants, and then broke his right hand as he was tearing up the Arizona Fall League. He also broke his left hand during his sophomore year at Georgia Tech. 

Law tends to rank players more on ceiling and upside, and says Bart has a "very high floor" because of his power, but believes he must show he can make consistent contact as he continues to face tougher pitching. As for his power, Bart showed that off with his first at-bat this spring. 

Ramos really impressed Law in 2019 after bouncing back from a rough 2018 season and hitting .290 with 16 homers between Single-A and Double-A at only 19 years old. In the near future, Law sees 30-plus homer power for Ramos in the mold of a No. 4 hitter. But he sees a position change for the former first-round draft pick. 

"He’s a solid athlete, but the way his body is filling out eliminates any chance that he’s going to play center in the majors; he should be capable in right, though, and has the plus arm to play there," Law wrote. That's no surprise. Ramos is built more like a running back than an outfielder. A switch to right field shouldn't be any trouble, though. 

Luciano might have the most upside out of any Giants prospect, which makes him a bit of a surprise at 58, even though he was 17 years old all last season. Law is impressed with his patience and power and sees Luciano as the Giants' first homegrown Latin American star since Pablo Sandoval.

There's no doubt that Luciano has a higher ceiling than Pablo ever did. 

[RELATED: Watch Bart, Dubon go deep in Giants’ spring training opener]

And then there's Bishop. Like Ramos, Law envisions Bishop moving off of center field in the future. Bishop has a weak arm, making him a natural candidate for left field. He runs great for his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame and covers a ton of ground. 

There are strikeout concerns for Bishop -- he had a 37-percent K rate last year after being taken with the No. 10 pick -- but the power is for real. Also like Ramos, Law says Bishop can consistently hit 30 long balls in the bigs. 

As the Giants set their eyes on the future, the spotlight will shine on these four players throughout this season.