Giants

Why Madison Bumgarner's trade value might not be seen as an ace pitcher

madbumballap.jpg
AP

Why Madison Bumgarner's trade value might not be seen as an ace pitcher

Time is ticking away on Madison Bumgarner's days as a Giant. 

As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, memories of Bumgarner in the Bay Area are brought up instead of his future with the Giants. While it's expected the left-handed pitcher -- who will be a free agent at the end of the season -- is bound to be on a new team in the coming weeks, what will San Francisco see in a trade for its ace? 

It might not be as much as expected. Advanced stats could have teams worried about who exactly Bumgarner, who turns 30 on Aug. 1, will be for the rest of the season. 

"Teams interested in Madison Bumgarner are asking, 'Just what would we be getting?'" The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal said Saturday on FOX's MLB broadcast. "Yes, Bumgarner is throwing the hardest he has since 2015 and his strikeout rate is almost at its career norm, but his hard-hit percentage is the highest of his career and many of his expected stats -- based on launch angle and exit velocity -- basically depict him as a below average starter. 

"So, his trade value might not be as an ace, it might be more as a mid-rotation pitcher." 

Bumgarner got rocked Thursday night in what could have been his last start in the Giants-Dodgers rivalry. He lasted only 3 2/3 innings while allowing 10 hits and six earned runs. His ERA is now at a career-high 4.28. The advanced stats are concerning, too. 

Through 16 starts, Bumgarner's hard-hit percentage is a career-worst 47 percent, according to FanGraphs. This is now the sixth straight season his hard-hit percentage has increased, and it has jumped 5.4 percent, up from 41.6 percent last season. His soft-hit percentage is also a career-low at 14.4 percent. 

Even though Bumgarner's average four-seam fastball (92.2 mph) is his exact career average and his highest since 2015, he's getting hit harder than ever. 

One player that seemed like he could be a fit in a Bumgarner trade is Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier. The 24-year-old was recently demoted to make room for Edwin Encarnacion despite batting .283 with 11 home runs in 53 games this year. It was assumed Frazier was more available than ever, and a swap of Bumgarner for a powerful young outfielder made sense for both sides. 

Don't buy your Frazier jerseys quite yet, Giants fans.

"They [the Yankees] do not intend to give up four more years of Frazier for a rental such as Madison Bumgarner," Rosenthal said Saturday.

[RELATED: MadBum's run against rival Dodgers worth appreciating]

With the trade deadline slightly over a month away, it will be interesting to see what exactly the Giants can receive in return for Bumgarner. Will they find future stars for a former postseason hero? Or will it be far from that for San Francisco?

Only time will tell, and it appears to be ticking away for Bumgarner and the Giants.

Madison Bumgarner admits he has rodeo alias, competed while on Giants

madbumhorseap.jpg
AP

Madison Bumgarner admits he has rodeo alias, competed while on Giants

Madison Bumgarner no longer is a Giant, but his legend keeps growing. 

The longtime San Francisco left-hander signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in free agency this winter after a decade-long orange-and-black tenure defined by epic postseason performances, horseback rides into the Oracle Park outfield and the revelation he once dated a girl named Madison Bumgarner. His latest disclosure undoubtedly tops the list.

The Athletic's Zach Buchanan and Andrew Baggarly revealed Sunday that Bumgarner has competed in multiple rodeos under the alias "Mason Saunders," and "Saunders" confirmed it was all true in an interview with the outlet. 

“Oh boy,” Bumgarner told Buchanan and Baggarly when they showed Bumgarner a photo of him from a Dec. 3 rodeo where he won $26,560 in a team-roping competition. “This is ruining my alias.”

The photo was taken just under two weeks before Bumgarner signed with the Diamondbacks, and the ace also admitted he competed in an event in March 2019 while he was still with the Giants. That event, according to Buchanan and Baggarly, came two days before he made a start in Spring Training against the Oakland A's and just under two years after the Giants placed him on the disabled list following an off-day dirt-bike accident in Denver.

Bumgarner missed nearly three months that season, making just 17 starts. He did tell the Wrangler Network in 2014 that he ropes right-handed, however, and he told Buchanan and Baggarly that the alias was more about avoiding attention than keeping secrets from his former and current employers.

He used an alias, but this is still ultra-competitive Madison Bumgarner we're talking about. 

“No matter what hobbies I have, I take ‘em serious,” Bumgarner told Buchanan and Baggarly. “That’s just my personality. I don’t do anything just for fun, per se. I wish I did.”

[RELATED: Top Giants prospect Hjelle lights it up in his spring debut]

Bumgarner will make his first visit to Oracle Park since signing a five-year, $85 million contract with Arizona on April 6 when the Diamondbacks visit San Francisco for a four-game set. 

Some bitter Giants fans might relish the chance to address the 30-year-old and the horse he rode out on, but they probably didn't know how real the euphemism was until Buchanan and Baggarly got the scoop.

Giants prospect Sean Hjelle shines, lights up radar gun in spring debut

Giants prospect Sean Hjelle shines, lights up radar gun in spring debut

MESA, Ariz. -- With the Giants nursing a one-run lead in the eighth inning Sunday, manager Gabe Kapler called right-handed prospect Luis Madero into the game. As Madero faced the A's, Sean Hjelle started warming up in the bullpen. Kapler saw Hjelle getting loose and called down to make sure he knew he was getting the ninth, not part of the eighth. 

"He was the one pitcher today who got loose before we told him to get loose," Kapler said, smiling. 

The 22-year-old, picked one round after Joey Bart in the 2018 draft, was excited to make his spring debut for the big league club and hid any butterflies. Hjelle is known for standing 6-foot-11 and having uncanny command and body control for a pitcher that size. But he came out throwing 95 mph and bumped 96 in a perfect inning, closing out a 5-3 win that clinched Kapler's first handshake line in orange and black. 

"As much as we're excited by his stuff, we're also excited by him pounding the strike zone," Kapler said. "That's certainly encouraging to see him come out there in this situation, certainly a nerve-wracking situation, and fill up the zone with his fastball."

Hjelle, the organization's top pitching prospect, reached Double-A last season and could debut this year. It was one inning and he was amped up, but the ceiling certainly will get a bit higher if he's sitting 95 in the future instead of the low 90s. The Giants always have felt there was more velocity in that massive frame. 

Here are four more observations from the first 18 innings of the Kapler Era ... 

--- There was a new whiteboard up in the clubhouse this morning with a bunch of circles and a spot for each game this spring. A photo of a beaming Austin Slater was glued inside the first circle, making him the "baserunning BOSS" from Saturday's game. The Giants have put a heavy emphasis on leads and turns this spring and the new staff has identified that as one area they can gain an edge. One player will be recognized after every game. 

We'll see if it works. This isn't a roster with much speed, but guys were aggressive Sunday and it led to a couple runs. Kapler credited first base coach Antoan Richardson for his work thus far. 

"We really want them to push the envelope," he said. 

--- Kapler has been hesitant to offer many public criticisms, but when asked about Derek Rodriguez the other day, he immediately mentioned that the staff needed to see more velocity from the starter/reliever heading into his third season. Rodriguez's average fastball dropped from 91.6 to 90.7 year over year. Rodriguez pumped a few 93s in his first inning of the spring and generally sat at 92, a positive sign this early.

"The first day of the spring, I'm happy about that," he said. 

Rodriguez said he took just two weeks off in the offseason -- to plan for his wedding -- and then got to work on mechanical changes. He made three Winter League starts and was encouraged by how he felt there. 

--- When Max Muncy came up early in Saturday's game, Evan Longoria shifted over to the right side but he didn't stand where he would last year. Longoria played kind of behind the first baseman, with Donovan Solano playing up the middle behind the bag. Last year the Giants had Longoria shift over between the second baseman and shortstop; this year he's between the second baseman and first baseman. It makes a lot more sense this way, allowing the actual second baseman to stay close to the bag where he might have to make a turn.

[RELATED: How might the Giants use 26th roster spot?]

--- Some early standouts, aside from Mauricio Dubon and Joey Bart, who homered Saturday: Matt Carasiti, a non-roster invite who struck out the side in his lone inning and got A.J. Pollock and Kiké Hernandez ... Abiatal Avelino, who hit a laser onto the berm in left on Sunday ... Kean Wong, who had two hits and showed his speed ... Finally, Rob Brantly, who has brought constant energy to camp and capped Sunday's game by yelling "Never in doubt!" as the Giants celebrated a spring win. Every team needs a quirky backup catcher, right?