Giants

Why Giants didn't keep Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco forever

Why Giants didn't keep Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco forever

The massive deals kept coming and coming, keeping fans happy and giving homegrown stars the knowledge that they might never play in another uniform.

In 2012, Matt Cain tacked on five years and $112.5 million to his deal, avoiding free agency. A year later, Buster Posey signed a nine-year, $167 million deal that could keep him in a Giants uniform through his 35th birthday. Brandon Crawford signed a $75 million deal in 2015, and Brandon Belt soon got $79 million.

The Giants were riding high, caught up in the championship era and eager to keep it going. They even spent heavily in free agency, giving $220 million to pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, and handed a $62 million check to closer Mark Melancon the next winter. 

This is an organization that prints money, but when it came time to hand it out to the players, one name curiously was left on the sidelines, and he might be the biggest one of all. 

Madison Bumgarner did get his life-changing deal, signing a contract as a 22-year-old that guaranteed him at least $35 million and ended up being worth much more than that. He pitched for the Giants through both option years in the contract, adding on $24 million in earnings.

Bumgarner had played just one full big league season at the time he signed the deal, but he still was taking a risk. He opted for security for his family, saying that the contract "took a weight off my shoulders."

"Now I just have to go out there and pitch," he said in 2012.

The problem for Bumgarner was that he pitched so well that the deal quickly became a steal for the organization. And the problem for Giants fans today is that the two sides never tore it up. 

Bumgarner got his massive payday Sunday, agreeing to a five-year, $85 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He no longer is a Giant, and while the new front office will take a lot of blame for that fact, this is a situation they inherited. This is a day that's been coming for a couple of years. 

Ownership and the previous front office went into the 2017 season planning to give Bumgarner an extension at the end of the year if he continued to pitch as he always had. He would be two years from free agency at that point, and the timing finally was right. They knew the range of what it would cost to get it done, and this was the closest the two sides ever came to making Bumgarner a Giant For Life.

But when Bumgarner hurt his shoulder in a dirt bike accident in April, everything changed. 

The Giants were not vindictive. They could have fined Bumgarner, lessening their Competitive Balance Tax hit and potentially getting close enough to the threshold that they would dip under, as they eventually worked so hard to do in 2018. The organization stood behind the ace during that process, but the relationship never was quite the same. The Giants had concerns about Bumgarner's shoulder moving forward, and there was a disconnect between the pitcher and the staff as he went through the rehab process.

It was glaring that nobody showed up in San Jose for Bumgarner's last rehab start despite the fact that the Giants were in the All-Star break. 

That year was the best opportunity for a long-term extension. The Giants did briefly consider tearing up the existing deal when Bumgarner carried them to a third championship in 2014, putting his own future on the line by taking on a monumental workload. They could have locked him up with Posey, who got his deal after the 2012 title, but ultimately the front office decided that it didn't make sense to do anything with five full years left on Bumgarner's deal. 

So, the sides continued a happy relationship, with 2017 viewed as a good opportunity for an extension. The Giants were so set on it that team officials involved Posey in the process, but an injury that year and another fluke one when Bumgarner was hit by a line drive in 2018 scuttled any talks. 

"If you look back at all those years, it really was the perfect storm," a source said recently.

The talks never got serious this season, with both sides resigned to let Bumgarner try free agency for the first time. The Giants did circle back this week, and their four-year offer to Bumgarner would have come with a higher average annual value than the one he accepted from the D-backs. But Bumgarner was not going to leave $10-15 million on the table, not this time. 

Bumgarner never has publicly complained about his contract, but those close to him knew it was something that gnawed at him. He sometimes asked friends why the Giants had locked up so many core members but didn't do the same with him. When his friend Clayton Kershaw got a three-year, $93 million extension from the Dodgers, Bumgarner privately wondered why he wasn't in line for a similar deal. 

[RELATED: MadBum's departure signals Giants are in a full rebuild]

By then, the Giants no longer were operating that way, and when Bumgarner showed up this spring, it was clear that he would have to play out his final year under a cloud of trade rumors and uncertainty. Early in the spring, Bumgarner was asked about his future. 

"Obviously, this is where I came up. I've been through a lot here," Bumgarner said. "A lot of good times and a few bad times, also. Obviously I would love to stay here. If that happens or not, I don't know. Some parts are in my control, some parts aren't."

Former Giant Randy Winn describes feeling of month-long hot streak

Former Giant Randy Winn describes feeling of month-long hot streak

A starting pitcher can take control of a game and singlehandedly lead his team to a win, but in general, it's hard for baseball players to will their team to victory day after day.

Starters pitch once every five days and position players know that even on a five-hit night, you're dependent on your own pitchers standing tall, and every time you reach base, you have to wait a couple innings for another chance to impact the game.

But every once in a while, a hitter gets so hot that it seems he's carrying his team for weeks at a time. The Giants last truly experienced this in 2018, when Brandon Crawford briefly thrust himself into the MVP race and earned an All-Star selection with an absurd stretch in May and June.

Buster Posey won the MVP award with his second half of 2012, and Melky Cabrera dragged the Giants to plenty of wins earlier that year before failing a PED test. In the first half of this century, Barry Bonds could carry the lineup for weeks, even seasons, at a time. 

Randy Winn experienced that after being traded to the Giants from the Mariners in 2005, and that year he had his own hot streak that to this day is one of the most impressive in franchise history. Over the final 30 games of that season, Winn had 54 hits in 123 at-bats, good for a .439 batting average. He hit 11 homers, 13 doubles and three triples, with a slugging percentage of .862 and OPS of 1.331. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Winn recalled what it felt like to get that hot for such a long period of time. 

"Nothing felt different -- everything just felt really, really easy and really slow," Winn said. "Whenever I felt like I wanted to take a pitch, the pitcher would throw a ball. If in my mind I was thinking, you know what, he might throw me a changeup, and he would throw me a changeup and it was very hittable. When anybody describes 'the zone' or being on fire, what they say is always the same: Everything was really slow, I was really relaxed, and my mind was really clear.

"When I think back on that time or other times when I was hitting really well, those are always the things that I remember. I didn't feel different, I wasn't really doing anything different. It just feels like you're in control of everything."

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Winn was having a solid season to that point, with a .273 average and .742 OPS. He opened September with eight hits in a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks and never looked back, finishing the year with a .306 average. Winn had 17 multi-hit games in September, including three four-hit games. His 51 hits that month set a San Francisco Giants record that Cabrera tied in May of 2012. 

"It was a great situation for me," Winn said of the midseason trade that brought him to San Francisco. "Coming home, still live in the Bay Area, grew up in the Bay Area, my wife is from the Bay Area, our parents at that time lived in the Bay Area, so for us it was a homecoming and it was just great to be back home."

[RELATED: Why "Champ" Timmy is the best version of former Giants ace]

On the podcast, Winn also talks about how he would handle this layoff, what it was like playing college basketball with Steve Nash, what made Bonds and Albert Pujols so great, and much more. 

Giants fans vote 'Champ' Tim Lincecum as best version of former ace

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AP

Giants fans vote 'Champ' Tim Lincecum as best version of former ace

You the fans have spoken.

We asked you to designate your favorite version of former Giants ace Tim Lincecum, and the social media response was overwhelming.

Lincecum was a part of all three World Series-winning teams in 2010, 2012, and 2014 in San Francisco.

During his first postseason run in 2010, Lincecum put together an impressive stretch of performances, solidifying himself as a franchise icon.

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He kicked off the 2010 MLB Playoffs by throwing a 119-pitch shutout with 14 strikeouts against the Atlanta Braves in Game 1, propping up an offense that only mustered one run of support to give the Giants a leg up in the five-game division series.

He followed that effort up by striking out eight Phillies in a Game 1 road win in Philadelphia, when Cody Ross’ two home runs led the Giants to a 4-3 win.

[RELATED: Forbes values Giants as worth $3.1B, fifth-highest in MLB]

Lincecum wrapped up the postseason by earning two World Series wins, including the series clincher in Game 5, striking out 10 Texas Rangers over eight innings as the Giants won their first Fall Classic since the franchise relocated to the west coast in 1958.

Although Lincecum earned plenty of nicknames during his legendary career in San Francisco, “Champ” definitely has a nice ring to it.