Giants

Will Farhan Zaidi trade Madison Bumgarner? 'Everything has to be on the table'

Will Farhan Zaidi trade Madison Bumgarner? 'Everything has to be on the table'

SAN FRANCISCO — If the American League Wild Card Game had gone differently in 2014, Farhan Zaidi could have been across the way from the Giants in that year’s World Series.

Instead, Zaidi was in an airport on Oct. 29, 2014, waiting for a flight that was part of the interview process to become general manager of the Dodgers.

He watched as Madison Bumgarner came out of the bullpen to clinch a title, and on Wednesday, his first official day as president of baseball operations for the Giants, he remembered that effort as “superhuman.”

“I remember at the time thinking that I’m working with the A’s and going to the Dodgers, two rivals, and I can’t help it as a baseball fan but to have appreciation for what this guy has done,” Zaidi said. “He has been a seminal pillar of this franchise for a long time. That carries a lot of weight.”

But will Bumgarner still be a pillar on Opening Day?

That’s the biggest question of this offseason for the Giants, and Zaidi will be the man making the final decision. He talked Wednesday of building the entire 25-man roster, and Bumgarner could bring in two to three legitimate prospects to help the Giants do that. The left-hander has one year left on his contract, and rival executives predicted this week that Zaidi would not shy away from the public-relations hit that would come with trading the franchise’s ace.

[RELATED: Giants' reported interest in Bryce Harper is overblown, source says]

On Wednesday, he indicated that was true.

“Where we are,” Zaidi said, “Everything has to be on the table in terms of how we move this team and roster forward.”

The Giants made their easiest decision of the offseason while waiting to interview Zaidi, picking up Bumgarner’s $12 million option for 2019. He is 11 months from becoming a free agent, and there have been no contract extension discussions. Zaidi was given a five-year deal, and if he were to make the move, he would be here long enough to outlast the initial hit. If he can win, after two wildly disappointing seasons for the Giants, all eventually will be forgiven.

On the surface, it seems a given that Zaidi will aggressively explore a deal. But he’s not totally unfamiliar with this kind of decision, and Zaidi’s former team, the Dodgers, recently reached an agreement to keep Clayton Kershaw around. The Dodgers ace was in a different situation, with an opt-out clause that could make him a free agent. The Dodgers tacked on one year to the two existing years, and Kershaw did not opt out, choosing to stay on a three-year, $93 million contract.

The situations are different in ways, but just as the Dodgers want Kershaw to retire in blue, the Giants have hoped to have Bumgarner around for years to come in orange and black. In an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area following his press conference, Zaidi acknowledged there are off-the-field concerns that come into play anytime you're thinking about parting ways with a player like Bumgarner or Kershaw. 

“You’re running an organization that has ties and a connection to the community and certain players’ value to the organization, and the community goes beyond the numbers they put up on the field,” Zaidi said. “You take a guy like Madison Bumgarner — he’s the definition of that for everything he’s brought to the city over the years, and really him and a couple of other guys, with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, really (have been) the heart and soul of a team that achieved so much.

“The next World Series team for the San Francisco Giants is probably going to look a little bit different than the team that won in 2014, so as we start thinking about moves, we’re going to have to at least consider it through that lens.”

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

With the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, MLB free agency is heating up.

One of the top available pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner -- is expected to be in high demand, particularly now that Cole Hamels has signed with the Braves and Zack Wheeler reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract with the Phillies. For teams who scoff at Gerrit Cole's price tag, Bumgarner might be the logical compromise.

The Giants have been "in communication" with Bumgarner, but rumor has it another interested team has entered the mix.

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Thursday that the St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to Bumgarner, citing a source.

St. Louis already has brought back veteran Adam Wainwright on a one-year deal, and after he, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, there appears to be an opening for Bumgarner in the starting rotation. Signing with the Cardinals would not only allow Bumgarner to continue pitching in the National League, but would also allow him to continue taking his own at-bats, which we know he loves so much. He also has been linked to teams such as the Twins and White Sox, but would forfeit his at-bats to a DH in each of those situations.

[RELATED: How Wheeler's reported $118M contract could affect MadBum]

While Bumgarner is expected to receive a contract in excess of $100 million, Feinsand suggests Wheeler's reported $118 million payday might serve to increase the total.

MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

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MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

Gerrit Cole is far and away the gem of the 2019 MLB free-agent class.

The former Pirates and Astros ace led the American League in both ERA and strikeouts last season and finished just behind teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race.

The team that historically always has had the deepest pockets in baseball -- the New York Yankees -- have made Cole a priority in free agency, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday, citing a source.

Cole is a Southern California native with familial ties to the Giants, a team that also features one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the MLB. San Francisco also has been mentioned as a destination for the ace, who reportedly desires a return to the West Coast.

But if the Yankees, who always have jumped to outbid every other team for talent in free agency, decide to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for the 29-year-old, the Giants might be swiftly eliminated from contention for Cole.

Reports indicate that Cole’s price tag will “shatter” the record set by David Price when he signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2015.

[RELATED: Report: Giants targeted UGA's pitching coach for same role]

While San Francisco has plenty of money to spend this offseason, it likely won’t engage in a bidding war that could approach $300 million.

Even if longtime Giant and current free agent Madison Bumgarner elects to go elsewhere in free agency, it remains to be seen how much money San Francisco would be willing to shell out for an elite talent like Cole in the heart of his prime.