Giants

Why Diamondbacks made room for Madison Bumgarner despite bigger needs

Why Diamondbacks made room for Madison Bumgarner despite bigger needs

Madison Bumgarner tugged on an unfamiliar cap and pulled a No. 40 Diamondbacks jersey over his broad shoulders. For years, Bumgarner was the hardest man in the building to pin down for Giants photographers and social media staffers, but he stood there patiently Tuesday, taking photos in his new gear. When he finally got a chance to speak, Bumgarner started with some interesting words.

"Thank you guys for believing in me," Bumgarner said, with Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen on one side and manager Torey Lovullo on the other. 

It's not hard to see why a team would believe in Bumgarner. He's the best big-game pitcher of his generation and someone who immediately brings a competitive edge to any clubhouse, but this can also be boiled down to very simple math. Sometimes there's no need to overthink things, as modern front offices so often do. Bumgarner will guarantee you 200 innings, and he has a 3.13 career ERA. Even last season, in what was considered a somewhat down walk year, he had a 3.90 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and averaged just about a strikeout per inning. 

Bumgarner is 30 years old and still a good pitcher. He is not miscast as your Opening Day starter, and there's a reason so many teams checked in when he became a free agent for the first time. All that said, it was still a surprise that the Diamondbacks were the ones to guarantee him $85 million.

Bumgarner circled the Diamondbacks from the start of the process, but he seemed to will himself there when free agency actually started to heat up. Hazen told reporters Tuesday that starting pitching wasn't his greatest need and Bumgarner was not on the front burner after an 85-win season. But the front office came around to the idea that this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. 

"We started to do a lot of work on [this move] and felt like the fit was too good not to pursue," Hazen said. "We knew over the next couple of years, finding somebody to anchor our rotation was going to be a need, and we felt like, this year, why not?"

Just five months after dealing Zack Greinke to the Astros, the Diamondbacks have a new ace. Hazen has proven adept at rebuilding on the fly, and a strong Diamondbacks front office put together an 85-win roster after trading Paul Goldschmidt in the offseason. 

The Diamondbacks had an MVP candidate in Ketel Marte and strong infield pieces in Nick Ahmed and Eduardo Escobar. But they still need offensive help, particularly in the outfield, and the bullpen is a work in progress. Starting pitching didn't seem to be a glaring need, with veterans Robbie Ray, Mike Leake and Merrill Kelly surrounded by talented young starters Luke Weaver, Alex Young and Zac Gallen.

But when it became clear that Bumgarner wanted to be in Phoenix, the Diamondbacks made room. The backloaded contract includes $15 million in deferred money and is structured in such a way that Arizona should be able to fill other holes over the next two months. They could turn around and trade Ray -- there are still plenty of teams seeking high-end starting pitching -- or decide to start the season with Bumgarner and Ray leading a team that's taking aim at the Dodgers. 

The Diamondbacks currently stand as the clear No. 2 in the NL West, with the Rockies stuck in a weird holding pattern, the Giants taking a clear step back and the Padres still trying to accelerate their own rebuild. But they still finished 21 games behind the Dodgers last year. 

"Madison will be a big piece for us in eliminating that deficit, but there's still a gap," Hazen said. 

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It'll be hard to catch the Dodgers, but there's another way into the dance. The Diamondbacks finished four games out of a wild-card spot last year and just so happen to now employ the pitcher who has had more success in that game than any other. That may come into play down the line. For now, the Diamondbacks are just thrilled to have a new leader. 

"He has an incredible track record, he's won world championships. To be able to put him in there every fifth day is going to be something that we're all looking forward to, especially the guys that are built around him, the 25 guys that are going to be playing beside him," Lovullo said. "Coming to the ballpark that day, I'm going to be looking forward to going to work. We're thrilled that he's here."

Buster Posey looked like Comeback Player of the Year, Mike Krukow says

Buster Posey looked like Comeback Player of the Year, Mike Krukow says

At his absolutely best, Buster Posey can hit 20 home runs a season.

But in 219 games over the last two seasons, the Giants catcher has bashed a total of 12 homers.

Issues with the hips stripped Posey of his power, and he didn't look like an MVP-caliber player in 2019.

But according to Giants broadcasters Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, they saw the old Posey in Scottsdale, Arizona during spring training in late February and early March.

"I think what he did when we got to Arizona, is he immediately passed our eye test, where the way he was moving, the way he was swinging, he was getting his hips into his swing," Kuiper told Amy Gutierrez earlier this week. "And then it was nice to actually hear him say "Yeah, I feel really, really good this spring.' I never heard him say one time last spring 'I feel really good.' He didn't.

"He's not going to tell you how he feels. But he did tell us in spring training he felt really, really good. And judging by what we saw, it certainly looked like he felt really good."

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Krukow had even higher praise for the 2012 NL MVP and three-time World Series champion.

"I thought I was looking at the Comeback Player of the Year every time I saw him step in the batter's box," Krukow said. "It's night and day. More than a couple times last year, when we watched Buster in the box, we thought 'Is he just not seeing it? He's got no lower body.' The bottom line is, he was hurt. And we always asked him ... we quit asking him that because we always got the same BS answer. He's old-school. He's not going to tell you or anybody that he doesn't feel good because he doesn't want to create an advantage for the other team. He's going to tell you 'I'm good to go. End of story. Don't even ask me again.'

[RELATED: Takeaways from GIants' simulated opener]

"But when we got down to spring training this year and it was his first at-bat, he took the first at-bat, first couple of swings, we looked at each other and went 'Mmmhmm.' Now we want to see it the next day because we'd see it everyone once in a while last year, but you wouldn't see it two or three or four days in a row. We saw it every at-bat in spring training. And at the end of spring training, that was the talk of camp, really. We thought we were looking at the Comeback Player of the Year and I believe this. This guy finally feels good, he's finally seeing the ball and his bat speed is back, his hand speed is back and that is exciting for us."

Kruk, Kuip and Giants fans everywhere will have to wait to see a rejuvenated Posey take the field again. The global coronavirus pandemic has the MLB season on hold for an undetermined amount of time.

But Kruk and Kuip's assessment of Posey gives Giants fans something to look forward to when baseball does return.

Watch Giants-Dodgers Opening Day simulation from 'MLB The Show 20'

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Watch Giants-Dodgers Opening Day simulation from 'MLB The Show 20'

Friday should've marked the Giants' home opener against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park. The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic pushed it back, as well as the rest of the MLB season, but we've got you covered with the next best thing.

You probably missed broadcasters Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and Amy Gutierrez bringing you the sounds of summer, but all three were on the call of NBC Sports Bay Area's simulation of the game in "MLB The Show 20" that aired Friday night. Even if you missed the broadcast, you can now watch the full simulation with Kuip, Kruk and Amy G on commentary on our YouTube page.

The virtual Giants started the 2020 season on the wrong foot, and they returned home to San Francisco in search of their first win. Could they get it in a high-scoring battle with their biggest rivals? Watch to find out, and give Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic's takeaways a read once you do.