Why Madison Bumgarner won't pitch in Bruce Bochy's final Giants game

Why Madison Bumgarner won't pitch in Bruce Bochy's final Giants game

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy’s final game with the Giants could have also served as Madison Bumgarner’s finale. Instead, Bumgarner’s last game before free agency will be spent alongside his longtime manager in the dugout.

Bochy announced late Friday that Bumgarner will not start Sunday as expected. The Giants had shuffled their rotation around on the last trip to allow Bumgarner to pitch Bochy’s final game, but Bochy said he didn’t want Bumgarner to feel obligated to do it. The two spoke Friday afternoon.

“I talked to him and we discussed the whole thing,” Bochy said. “I’d just as soon him hang with me and watch the game with me. I didn’t want him to feel like he had to go out there.”

Bumgarner’s 11th season with the Giants ends with a 9-9 record and 3.90 ERA. He threw 207 2/3 innings and struck out 203 batters. Bumgarner will hit the open market in a few weeks. 

"He's been out there every start. He's pitched enough," Bochy said. "The game is not going to determine anything. He's got a lot of baseball left and I'd like to take care of him."

[RELATED: Pillar wins Willie Mac Award award in first Giants season]

The Giants plan to go with a bullpen game for Bochy's final nine innings. He mentioned Dereck Rodriguez as the likely starter. 

What to watch for as Giants head to MLB's Winter Meetings


What to watch for as Giants head to MLB's Winter Meetings

SAN FRANCISCO -- There are two things that we can guarantee will happen next week at Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings. 

On Sunday, all of the reporters from the East Coast and chillier portions of the Midwest will take a few seconds to tweet out their appreciation for San Diego. A few days later, Scott Boras will find a cozy spot -- likely in front of the Christmas tree at the Manchester Grand Hyatt -- and explain to everyone with a microphone why owners are being cheap when it comes to his difference-making players (he's not wrong).

The rest of the week is generally unpredictable. The last time the Meetings were held in San Diego, reporters and team executives scrambled through the lobby as midnight approached one night, with Matt Kemp having just been traded to the Padres. There surely will be another moment like that next week, but nobody can tell you right now which players will be involved. 

But, there is a third guarantee in the middle of all that uncertainty. NBC Sports Bay Area will be there the whole time, bringing you stories, videos, podcasts and live shows. I'll be doing a live stream on our My Teams app with Amy Gutierrez every day, with special guests lined up. You can also follow any rumors on Twitter or go behind the scenes on Instagram. 

It should be a fun and unpredictable week. Here's what you should know before the Giants get on that short flight to The Tin Fish San Diego. 

So, What's the Plan, Guys?

It's not hard to figure out the direction the Giants are headed. They're going young as often as they can and trying to open up playing time for prospects and inexperienced big leaguers who might be the next Mike Yastrzemski. With every decision, the Giants are trying to build towards a contender in 2021 or beyond. That's why Kevin Pillar is gone and Jaylin Davis and Steven Duggar might be getting plenty of time next year. 

The coaching staff thus far has been filled with guys who have a strong background in player development, and the Giants have quietly invested millions of dollars in their infrastructure in Scottsdale to help that push. 

All of that is great if you're trying to catch up to the Dodgers in a few years, but it means 2020 looks a bit frightening right now. When the Giants have sent out youth-filled lineups during stretches of the last couple of seasons, they've generally played like a 100-loss team. 

Farhan Zaidi hasn't had much time to explain his roster plans this offseason because he spent so much time looking for Scott Harris and Gabe Kapler, and then explaining the Kapler hire. He'll meet with beat reporters every afternoon in San Diego and will have an opportunity to further lay out his vision for the 2020 season. 

Harris and Kapler should also get their first opportunities to speak specifically about current Giants. Both were still getting up to speed last month, but the Winter Meetings generally provide a first opportunity to discuss the lineup or bullpen hierarchy, or what the rotation might look like. 

Bumgarner Watch

The Giants seemed to prefer being on the outside of this chase even when it looked like Bumgarner would have to settle somewhere around $80 million. If he truly does wind up with $100 million, or even tops Zack Wheeler's $118 million, as some have predicted in recent days, it's hard to see how Bumgarner's only previous employer is even part of the conversation at the end. 

Whatever happens, it will largely shape the Giants' offseason. If there's a surprise and Bumgarner is brought back, all will be forgiven. But it seems like this will be another move that fits in with an offseason that is setting the Giants up for the future but has disappointed much of the fan base. 

A Big Splash?

The Giants ended up in quite a few Bryce Harper-related headlines last offseason, but most of that occurred in February. They haven't yet been connected to Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg or any of the other top-end free agents, but that doesn't mean the Giants aren't considering all options. 

It's unlikely that they get seriously involved with a Cole or Strasburg type, but perhaps next week will be the one that brings real Marcell Ozuna rumors or more on their reported interest in Nicholas Castellanos. The Giants are rebuilding, but they do have plenty of money to spend if they feel a player will still be highly productive a couple of years from now. 

Rest of the West

The Giants have finished 87 1/2 games behind the Dodgers the past three seasons.

Read that again, because that is the stat that is guiding much of this offseason. There's no sign of it slowing down, either, because the Dodgers -- partially built by Zaidi -- are the National League's juggernaut and have waves of talent on the way. You can make your "no rings" jokes, but the truth is the Giants ultimately are vying to catch this Dodgers team, and they're nowhere close. 

So, it's certainly worth watching the Dodgers over the next week. If they get a Cole or Strasburg, they're that much stronger next year and in the years when the Giants are ready to compete. The addition of Anthony Rendon, something they're considering, would be downright frightening. 

The Giants probably don't lose much sleep over the Rockies, but the Diamondbacks have a nice young nucleus and money to spend and the Padres -- who added Drew Pomeranz early and traded for Tommy Pham on Thursday -- are in win-now mode. The NL West might look a lot tougher a week from now. 

Coaching Carrousel 

The Giants plan to announce Kapler's staff early next week, but already we know that Brian Bannister will join as Director of Pitching and Donnie Ecker will serve as hitting coach. Kapler is 44, Bannister is 38 and Ecker is 33, and all three are well-versed in analytics and fresh techniques that have infiltrated the game over the past half-decade. 

What will the rest of the staff look like? Will Kapler bring in an experienced bench coach to provide some balance, or will the Giants continue to add coaches that they feel are rising stars with a different perspective? 

Thus far, Ron Wotus is the only one to survive the managing change, and it's unclear where Curt Young, Rich Schu and Jose Alguacil will end up in 2020 (there's no indication any of them will be back), or if other longtime members of the organization's support staff will be replaced. A lot of those questions should be answered over the first 24 hours in San Diego. 

Farhan Zaidi says Giants are 'in communication' with Madison Bumgarner


Farhan Zaidi says Giants are 'in communication' with Madison Bumgarner

Few pitchers in Giants' history have endeared themselves to the San Francisco fans more than Madison Bumgarner.

The current free agent pitcher won three World Series with the Giants and statistically is the most dominant starter in MLB postseason history.

There are reports that Bumgarner would like to return to the organization he spent his first 11 professional seasons with, but the four-time All-Star is drawing plenty of interest as one of the top arms on the market.

“(Bumgarner) is a free agent and we’re in communication there,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told season ticket-holders during a recent Q&A at Oracle Park. “And he’s going to vet all of his options. Being a free agent is something guys aspire to. It’s nice to be at a point in your career where you’re getting courted and can look around at your options.”

Zaidi faced some mixed feedback from long-time fans who feel like the front office has “taken the heart” of the team away by non-tendering a clubhouse leader like Kevin Pillar and bringing in a manager with some significant off-the-field baggage.

But despite Bumgarner’s Bay Area ties, Zaidi understands that the North Carolina native may opt to join a team closer to where the 30-year-old grew up.

[RELATED: Where Giants' core players stand as Winter Meetings near]

“Obviously, he has roots in other parts of the country that may be attractive to him,’’ Zaidi said. “It’s his decision. That’s the beauty of free agency for players. But we are going to be involved in that process.”

Communication is the first step in any negotiation, but the Giants will need more than that to lure Bumgarner away from suitors willing to pay top-dollar for the veteran ace.