Why Giants' Madison Bumgarner is 'most fascinating' in MLB free agency

Why Giants' Madison Bumgarner is 'most fascinating' in MLB free agency

The Giants will try to re-sign Madison Bumgarner if they can, but it's going to be costly.

While the three-time World Series champion isn't the same pitcher he used to be, Bumgarner will have no shortage of suitors on a free-agent market that includes some high-profile names.

And while Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg are stealing the headlines and expected to receive the largest paydays, Bumgarner exists as the "most fascinating" free agent outside of those three, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan.

"Madison Bumgarner has been so good for so long, it's easy to lose appreciation of what he has been and what he might become," Passan wrote. "In a lot of ways, Bumgarner's career numbers mirror those of another left-hander who signed a long-term deal before his age-30 season: Jon Lester. 

"Bumgarner comes with more mileage than Lester and didn't have nearly the same walk season, but the stuff itself is very similar. Lester's fastball velocity going into free agency: 91.8 mph. Bumgarner's last season: 91.4 mph. Lester's cutter: 87.8 mph. Bumgarner's slider: 87.3 mph. Both throw a looping curveball and a changeup too."

Lester signed a six-year, $155 million contract with the Cubs after the 2014 season. While Passan doesn't necessarily expect Bumgarner to receive an identical offer, he rejects the notion that MadBum has precipitously fallen off.

"The idea that Bumgarner is some diminished version of himself is ludicrous," Passan continued. "His 207 2/3 innings last season illustrate that, as do his 203 strikeouts and nearly 5-to-1 walk rate. All that from the best pitcher in World Series history? That should play."

[RELATED: What Giants giving qualifying offers to MadBum, Smith mean]

MLB Trade Rumors predicts Bumgarner will sign for substantially less than Lester did. However, it only takes one team, and that still could be San Francisco.

Brandon Belt sidelined by heel pain as Giants' MLB opener approaches

Brandon Belt sidelined by heel pain as Giants' MLB opener approaches

On the first day of intrasquad games the Giants were without two key players, and another was slightly limited. 

Gabe Kapler said Brandon Belt is out at least five to seven days with right heel pain. Hunter Pence took his swings Wednesday but did not play the outfield because he has minor foot pain, though the Giants expect him to be a full go soon. Buster Posey missed the day with the same personal issue that caused him to miss Friday's workout. 

Belt's pain, which he has had in the past, is by far the most concerning. The Giants have just 15 days until their opener at Dodger Stadium and their starting first baseman is in a walking boot. Kapler said it was “premature to make an assessment" for the opening series. He said he spoke with Belt and the first baseman was confident he would be okay. 

If Belt is not ready by opening day, the Giants do have some first base depth. Wilmer Flores, Pablo Sandoval and Darin Ruf all could handle starts there. 

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Belt had been working out with Group 2, which includes Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Posey and Donovan Solano. The Giants played a simulated game in the afternoon at Oracle Park, but they did not have players stationed at every position. Because they generally had infielders set up for every inning, coaches took turns fielding at first base. 

[RELATED: Watch Luciano hit monster home run in live BP]

Belt spoke with the media on Sunday and expressed optimism about the upcoming season. He said he feels good about safety protocols put in place and has talked to several doctors about whether this plan is a good idea. Belt also said he was excited about the short season.

"It could be a year that maybe a team that wouldn't get in otherwise gets in and they go on a hot streak and maybe win the World Series," Belt said. "Our goal is the same no matter if we're playing 162 or 60 -- we're playing to win ballgames and get in the playoffs and ultimately win a World Series."

Watch Giants prospect Marco Luciano hit monster home run in live BP

Watch Giants prospect Marco Luciano hit monster home run in live BP

The Giants held an intrasquad game featuring many of their regulars on Wednesday afternoon, but it seems the real action was seen in the morning. 

Marco Luciano, the organization's top prospect, has shown in workouts over the past week why he's one of the top 20 prospects in baseball, and on Wednesday the Giants gave fans a taste of Luciano's power:

Reminder: That's the swing and physique of a shortstop who won't turn 19 until September. Luciano signed out of the Dominican Republic two years ago and made an impact in his pro debut last year, batting .302/.417/.564 in 47 games with 10 homers and 13 doubles. 

"Kind of taller -- little lanky, still -- not fully mature in the lower half, but incredibly twitchy," manager Gabe Kapler said on KNBR earlier this week. "Incredibly athletic and rangy to both his left and his right. In the batter's box, (he has) a high level of comfort and confidence."

Luciano likely would have spent much of this season with High-A San Jose, but now he'll get two months of extra work with more experienced players in Sacramento, along with this early time in big league camp. The Giants will reevaluate their prospects in the offseason, but Luciano has the look of someone who will move extremely quickly. There are plenty of scouts who believe he'll be a top-five prospect in all of baseball by next spring. 

[RELATED: Three interesting observations about Giants' 60-game slate]

Kapler has talked a couple of times this week of how impressive the younger Giants have been. Luciano is part of a group that includes Joey Bart, Patrick Bailey, Heliot Ramos, Alexander Canario and Wilson. Kapler said that group is often making Oracle Park "look small."

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