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. 

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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. 

MLB rumors: Giants to be sellers, not buyers, during trade deadline

MLB rumors: Giants to be sellers, not buyers, during trade deadline

The Giants find themselves facing a question nobody ever expected: Should they be buyers or sellers at the July 31 MLB trade deadline? 

For months, the answer was obvious. The Giants found themselves in the bottom of the standings as one of the worst teams in baseball. Having two of the best trade assets in the game in pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, San Francisco was built to sell and keep building for the future. 

Oh how quickly the narrative changes. 

As the Giants enter Wednesday only three games back for the second NL wild card spot, fans are clamoring for president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi to be a buyer and hold onto the two left-handers. That won't be the case, however, ESPN's Jeff Passan reports. 

"San Francisco's recent success isn't throwing a wrench in the team's trade-Bumgarner-and-all-the-relievers plan," Passan wrote Wednesday morning. "Even with their best run of the year, the Giants are three games below .500 and have the third-worst run differential in the NL. They are selling. One more time, a bit slower. They. Are. Selling." 

And they should. Despite being on a four-game win streak and going 8-2 in their last 10 games, the math just doesn't add up, as Passan points out. Plus, it makes no sense for an aging roster that likely isn't a title contender to hold onto Bumgarner and Smith, whom both will be free agents this upcoming offseason. 

The Giants have been dangling Bumgarner to interested teams for a while now. According to Passan, they tried to get a deal done last month but nothing substantive came from the trade talks. As the deadline approaches, teams reportedly believe he won't be moved until the final days of the month. 

Bumgarner and Smith will both be on the move. Who gets the greater return for the Giants is the biggest question now.

[RELATED: How Zaidi's reacting to Giants' hot streak ahead of deadline]

Everyone knows who Bumgarner is. While he isn't the same dominant pitcher he once was, his pedigree in the playoffs speaks for itself. A team on the verge of being World Series favorites knows adding someone like Bumgarner with his October experience could be all the difference. 

But October is a month driven by bullpens and Smith has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season. Plenty of relief help will be on the way at the deadline, and the Giants' closer could be the cream of the crop. 

How Alex Dickerson became Giants' best hitter at Oracle Park this season

How Alex Dickerson became Giants' best hitter at Oracle Park this season

The Giants would be nowhere this season without Alex Dickerson. That's a fact, as is saying most Giants fans had never heard of Dickerson before this season. 

Dickerson, 29, was acquired by the Giants in a trade with the Padres on June 10. Less than two weeks later, he made his team debut when he hit a grand slam and drove in six runs against the Diamondbacks on June 21.

Suddenly, the Giants are the hottest team in baseball and sit just three games back of the second NL wild card spot. Since Dickerson debuted with the orange and black, the Giants have gone 15-7. Before his arrival, they were 31-42. 

"The vibe is kind of a calm confidence," Dickerson said Wednesday morning on KNBR regarding the Giants' clubhouse right now.

While the Giants can't be stopped, neither can Dickerson. Since joining the Giants, he's been one of the best hitters in baseball. 

What has been most impressive by Dickerson's dominance at the plate are his stats at Oracle Park. Through 10 games in San Francisco, the left-handed hitting outfielder has a .379 batting average with two home runs and a 1.195 OPS.

For Dickerson, it all starts with the right mindset. 

"You always have to step in the box with that confidence that you're gonna get the job done. You gotta take the park out of it," Dickerson said. "Honestly, I never hit too well there until that last home stand and it took my hitting coach Alonzo Powell telling me, 'Hey, that bay isn't out of reach for you. You gotta challenge it.'

"I realized that I was trying to do something different than what I wanted to do as far as driving the baseball." 

Dickerson is a powerful hitter at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds. He quite literally begin telling himself he could hit the ball to McCovey Cove, and the results followed. 

"You gotta play to your strengths and for me, being able to drive a ball to that pull-side gap, that really opens up a lot of stuff for me," Dickerson said. 

All four of Dickerson's home runs this year have been hit to right-center field or right field. Through 31 games between the Giants and Padres, 27 percent of his batted balls have been hit to right-center field and 26 percent have gone to right field, according to Baseball Savant

[RELATED: How Zaidi's reacting to Giants' hot streak ahead of deadline]

The Giants are hitting nearly 20 points higher on the road this season and only have 34 home runs at Oracle Park compared to 67 on the road this season. Though the offense as a whole has struggled in San Francisco, Dickerson seems to have the horrors of Oracle Park figured out. 

It's simple: Aim for the water.