Madison Bumgarner

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.”

Giants Review: Madison Bumgarner beset by injury for second straight year

Giants Review: Madison Bumgarner beset by injury for second straight year

SAN FRANCISCO — As big of a draw as he is in Scottsdale, there’s little that can be taken from a Madison Bumgarner spring training start. He's years past the point where any results in the Cactus League matter. He’s simply there to get his work in, and occasionally to make a small tweak or two. 

And yet, the Giants found themselves getting more and more excited about Bumgarner as spring training went on this year. He was sharp throughout, and with 30 strikeouts in 21 innings, he looked ready to dominate. Bruce Bochy and members of his staff quietly wondered if Bumgarner was about to have a career year.

That all changed with one liner back to the mound. 

Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield’s shot up the middle fractured Bumgarner’s fifth metacarpal and put a serious dent in the Giants’ chances of getting off to a quick start. 

Bumgarner had a solid year, but not the spectacular one that some were picturing back in Scottsdale. Here’s a look at how it all went down … 

What Went Right

Bumgarner had a 3.26 ERA and 1.24 WHIP and was particularly dominant at home, posting a 1.63 ERA in 10 starts at AT&T Park. At home, he held opposing hitters to a minuscule .204/.267/.306 slash line and allowed just three home runs.

He didn’t get as deep into games as he used to, but he still completed eight innings three times and made it through seven on six occasions, which is increasingly rare in today’s game. In 16 of his 21 starts, he pitched at least six innings, and he also allowed three-or-fewer runs 16 times. 

This was a year when Bumgarner hit a few milestones. He became the fourth-fastest left-hander to reach 1,500 career strikeouts, and he needs just 16 to move past Gaylord Perry and into fourth place in San Francisco Giants history. He finished the year at 110 career wins, ranking him third in franchise history. 

Bumgarner provided one of the coolest moments of the season, coming off the bench in the 12th inning on Sept. 25 and lining a walk-off single. He became the first pitcher in four years to get a game-ending RBI and the first Giants pitcher in 28 years to do it. He then rejected Alen Hanson. 

What Went Wrong

There’s nothing Bumgarner could do about the injury. It was bad luck that cost him 60 games a year after he missed 75. The Giants have a 59-76 record with Bumgarner on the DL the past two years. 

The bigger concern might be some of the red flags within his overall numbers. Bumgarner had a 4.97 ERA on the road. His strikeout rate (7.6) was the lowest of his career and the walk rate (3.0) was the highest. For the first time since 2013, he didn’t pitch a complete game. For the first time since 2010, he didn’t have a double-digit strikeout game.

Bumgarner may be the most durable pitcher of his generation, but in 2018 he fell victim to the same third-time-through penalty as most other starters. Opponents had a .624 OPS off him the first two times through the order but it was .868 the third time, and Bochy adjusted and started pulling him earlier. 

And since we mentioned the pinch-hit walk-off, we should mention that he failed to homer for the first time in five years and had a .378 OPS. Certainly, the fractured finger set him back, but he still is used to putting up far more resistance at the plate. 

Contract Status

This week, the Giants picked up Bumgarner’s option for 2019. He will make $12 million in the final year of his deal, and he has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block eight teams. 

The Future

Bumgarner’s status is the biggest issue a new front office must address, and Larry Baer and Brian Sabean have been asking candidates about Bumgarner during interviews. After 2014, it seemed a lock that Bumgarner would get the usual Giants treatment, signing a massive extension before he hit free agency and maybe one day watching a statue go up outside AT&T Park somewhere.

But in recent months, Giants officials have acknowledged that they are in a deep hole and that trading Bumgarner for prospects is the easiest way to kickstart a rebuild. It’s very possible that he’ll start 2019 in New York, or Atlanta, or somewhere else.

If this were anyone else, it would be a no-brainer. The left-hander is a year from free agency and would be the biggest name on the trade market. But he’s also Madison Bumgarner, the man who dragged this franchise to a third title, and it remains difficult to picture this ownership group signing off on a winter trade. 

Giants exercise 2019 options on Madison Bumgarner and Pablo Sandoval

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AP

Giants exercise 2019 options on Madison Bumgarner and Pablo Sandoval

SAN FRANCISCO -- The first official moves of the Giants' offseason were obvious ones. The club exercised 2019 options on Madison Bumgarner and Pablo Sandoval on Monday, locking both players in for what will be the final year of their contracts. 

Bumgarner is due $12 million in the final year of an extension he signed in 2012. It has proven to be a very under-market deal, and Bumgarner figures to be at the heart of many of the offseason plans. It's possible the two sides discuss another extension that will make him a Giant for life, although there was nothing on the table when the season ended a month ago. It's also possible that Bumgarner becomes the biggest trade chip on the market this winter.

Sandoval signed a five-year $95 million deal with the Red Sox after the 2014 postseason and the Giants are on the hook for only the MLB minimum. The new World Series champs will pay all but about $545,000 of Sandoval's $18 million salary in 2019. Sandoval is expected to once again serve as the backup at third and first. 

The Giants also reinstated Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Julian Fernandez and Sandoval to the active roster. All five of them finished the season on the 60-day DL.