How Zack Wheeler's reported $118M contract affects Madison Bumgarner market

How Zack Wheeler's reported $118M contract affects Madison Bumgarner market

A former Giants top prospect is getting over $100 million on the free-agent market, while San Francisco's longtime ace looks to sign his own lucrative contract. 

Zack Wheeler, whom the Giants selected No. 6 overall in the 2009 MLB Draft and traded to the Mets in 2011, reportedly has agreed to five-year contract with the Phillies. The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Wednesday that Wheeler is signing for $118 million. 

The Athletic's Marc Craig was first to report Wheeler had agreed to terms with the Phillies. 

Does this mean Madison Bumgarner is set for a major payday his first time as a free agent? There are arguments for both sides. 

It really shouldn't come as a shock that Wheeler is getting over $100 million on the open market. MLB Trade Rumors predicted the right-hander would sign a five-year, $100 million contract with none other than the Phillies. But the website has MadBum signing a much cheaper, four-year, $72 million deal with the Twins. 

Those predictions came one month ago on Nov. 5. Much could change in that span, and it appears Bumgarner now is believed to sign a much heftier contract. 

USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Wednesday that the Braves turned to veteran pitcher Cole Hamels after feeling Bumgarner's price tag likely will exceed $100 million. There are plenty of reasons for Bumgarner and his representatives to believe he deserves nine figures after seeing Wheeler's deal, too. 

After two freak injuries in 2017 and 2018, Bumgarner proved he was healthy and still a workhorse in 2019. Despite turning 30 years old in August, he led the majors with 34 starts and pitched 207 2/3 innings. The left-hander's velocity actually rose, too. 

Bumgarner's average four-seam fastball was 91.72 mph last season, according to Brooks Baseball, which is his highest since 2015. While MadBum is considered an old-school personality, he gave those in the sabermetrics community a big reason for optimism last season. The spin rate on his four-seamer went from 2,081 in 2018 to 2,405 last season, according to Baseball Savant

Though Bumgarner's fastball velocity in 2019 was in just the 10th percentile, his fastball spin rate was in the 87th percentile. 

Wheeler is considered a statcast sweetheart around the industry. He averaged nearly 97 miles per hour on his fastball last year. According to data from Baseball Savant, Wheeler's fastball velocity is in the 94th percentile, his opponent exit velocity is in the 90th percentile and his hard-hit percentage is in 82nd percentile. 

[RELATED: Gabe Kapler hasn't spoken with free agent Madison Bumgarner]

And though Bumgarner only is 10 months older than Wheeler, he has thrown over 1,000 more regular-season innings than the former Met, along with an extra 102 1/3 in the playoffs. 

Don't be surprised if Wheeler still earns more than the World Series hero, but MadBum certainly could sign a much larger contract than first expected on the open market. 

MLB free agency: What Madison Bumgarner's market looks like early on

MLB free agency: What Madison Bumgarner's market looks like early on

SAN FRANCISCO -- The free-agent market has moved faster than it did a year ago, with Will Smith signing in Atlanta right before the qualifying offer deadline and Yasmani Grandal getting a four-year deal from the White Sox this week. But all has been quiet thus far for the biggest names in the starting pitching market, including Madison Bumgarner. 

The longtime Giants ace turned down the qualifying offer as expected and has been the subject of a few rumors, but nothing substantial enough to indicate a deal is close. During an interview on the "TK Show" this week, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he thinks the process will drag out a bit. 

"We've at least expressed interest and I think they're going to take their time with this process and obviously Madison has earned the right to free agency and to explore all his options," Zaidi told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic. "I think they're going to be pretty methodical with it and we respect that, but we'll maintain contact."

Others have been in contact, particularly during the GM Meetings last week. Here's how Bumgarner's market is shaping up through the first three weeks of his first foray into free agency:


Gabe Kapler said earlier this week that he hasn't spoken to Bumgarner yet, but that's not a big deal. Even when he was employed by the Giants, teammates and friends joked about how hard it was to reach Bumgarner in the offseason.

Bumgarner was curious to see who Bruce Bochy's replacement would be, and it's easy to say the fit with Kapler would be less than ideal. They are on the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to a lot of how they think about the game, but ultimately Bumgarner just wants to win, so the evaluation process would simply be about how quickly he thinks Kapler could get him back to the postseason.

As I've written a few times already, most people within the building feel that Bumgarner will be playing elsewhere next season. But there's always that chance his market dries up and Bumgarner's best option is to come back to San Francisco. 


The connection was there even before Smith signed with the Braves. When he was introduced to the media in Atlanta, Smith was asked about reuniting with Bumgarner.

"I don't know, maybe. We'll see," he told reporters. "That'd be great, especially with the kind of talent he is. But we'll see what they've got."

The Braves had interest in Bumgarner before the deadline, sources have told NBC Sports Bay Area, and they planned to make a push for him in free agency. That's basically the same way they felt about Smith, and they got that done. The Braves remain the cleanest fit if Bumgarner is not wearing orange and black. 


Speaking of clean fits, this team isn't it. But, the Yankees have shown some interest. 

"I will definitely talk to Bumgarner's agency," Yankees GM Brian Cashman told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. 

The Yankees could use another starter for the postseason and they're relatively close to Bumgarner's offseason home in North Carolina. But, playing in the American League would take the bat out of Bumgarner's hands, which figures to be a bigger deal to him than any other pitcher. 


The best case for Bumgarner and his representatives? That would be getting two NL East rivals -- who just watched the Nationals win a World Series -- involved in a bidding war. 

The Phillies had interest in Bumgarner in the past and they are at it once again, according to Jon Morosi of MLB Network. 

[RELATED: Time for Giants to kick tires on Rendon?]


A dark horse, and they're truly fascinating. The Padres looked like an ideal trade deadline destination before their hot start wore off, and Bumgarner did his due diligence about their organization when it appeared he might end up there. 

The Padres offer a division he knows, a rotation that needs a workhorse ahead of Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet and all the young starters they have coming through the minors, a ballpark that's often filled with Giants fans and an intriguing roster that should be in the postseason race. 

They were connected to Stephen Strasburg earlier in the offseason but Bumgarner would come cheaper, and they have interest: 

The fit is there. Plus, Bumgarner might be reunited with Bochy in a year.

(Kidding! Sort of.)

Gabe Kapler's communication can help Giants transition, Ben Davis says

Gabe Kapler's communication can help Giants transition, Ben Davis says

For the first time since 2006, someone other than Bruce Bochy will manage the Giants on Opening Day next season.

San Francisco hired former Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler to succeed Bochy on Tuesday. Kapler managed the Phillies for the last two seasons, going 161-163 in Philadelphia before being fired last month.

During that time, Kapler's work ethic impressed NBC Sports Philadelphia analyst Ben Davis. 

"You're gonna get a hard worker in Gabe Kapler," Davis said Tuesday of the new Giants manager on "SportsNet Central." "Gabe is a guy that I played against -- not only in the minor leagues, but in the big leagues -- and seeing him here in Philadelphia the last couple of seasons, just how hard he and his staff work, it's really something to be complimented. He's worried about the game at hand. He will think toward a potential series, but he is more focused on that game that night or that particular day than anyone I've ever seen."

Davis, who played in 486 MLB games, said Kapler values communication with his players, which he believes should help the manager as he inherits a veteran clubhouse. 

[RELATED: Zaidi addresses Kapler accusations after Giants hire manager]

The Giants' rebuild is underway, but they had one of the oldest teams in the majors last season. All of the returning players will have played for no other manager in San Francisco other than Bochy, and the entirety of the Giants' core came up with Bochy as a fixture in the dugout. 

Davis said Kapler's ability to communicate should help that transition. 

"I saw it with some of the guys here and how he treated them," Davis said of Kapler's time in Philadelphia. "He basically always has an open-door policy. [He says,] 'You wanna talk? We'll sit down and talk. We'll go over it. We'll discuss things.' So, I think that communication lines are always going to be open. It's something that he really strives for in that managerial position."

More on Kapler from NBC Sports Philadelphia

Leadership issues led to Kapler's firing
Kapler's reactions on final day of Phillies season
Bryce Harper's thoughts on Kapler's future
Kapler and Velasquez have miscommunication