Many signs point to another top-flight starting pitcher joining one of the Phillies' NL East rivals. 

The Braves, connected to North Carolina native Madison Bumgarner for months, "have made Bumgarner a priority and planned to quickly communicate that to the left-hander," according to NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic, who refers to the Braves as the Giants' biggest threat for Bumgarner.

Bumgarner is not the pitcher he once was, but he'd still be the No. 1 starter for about 10 teams and a top-two starter for all but a few. He came two innings shy of leading the NL in 2019, posting a 3.90 ERA with an excellent WHIP (1.13), walk rate (1.9 per nine) and his highest strikeout rate (8.8 per nine) since 2016.

Such a move for Atlanta would make obvious sense. The Braves are losing Dallas Keuchel and Bumgarner, a fellow lefty, would be an even better fit for that rotation. He would also provide the Braves another veteran voice, perhaps one that prevents the Braves from having as many hustle-related issues as they did down the stretch. Some take issue with Bumgarner's intensity, but pair him with Freddie Freeman and you should rarely, if ever, have festering clubhouse issues.

Bumgarner would be a great get for the Braves and it would sting for the Phillies. They'd have to not only face him on the mound a handful of times per year but also in the batter's box. Bumgarner had one of his worst offensive years in 2019, hitting .127, but he still homered twice. He's gone deep 17 times over the last six seasons, hitting .200 over that span. His bat adds value.


Another factor that makes Bumgarner such a fit in Atlanta is his expected price tag. While many are projecting Gerrit Cole's contract to land in the $250 million range and Stephen Strasburg's to check in above $150 million, literally nobody is predicting Bumgarner gets a nine-figure deal. Most projections are between $72 million-$90 million over four or five years.

That would make it more palatable for the Braves, who have exceeded $120 million in opening-day payroll one time in their history. For perspective, the Phillies opened 2019 above $140 million. 

Josh Donaldson's $23 million salary is now off Atlanta's books, same for Keuchel's pro-rated $13 million. That creates enough flexibility for the Braves to fit in Bumgarner, although they'd also love to bring back Donaldson.

If Bumgarner does end up with the Braves, it's just another high-quality arm the Phillies must deal with in their quest to end an eight-year playoff drought. J.T. Realmuto called the NL East the best division in baseball earlier this week and that wasn't just bias. Playing in this division, you draw about an ace a week.

Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, potentially Strasburg, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, potentially Zack Wheeler, potentially Bumgarner. Woof city. Wouldn't it be more fun to play the Tigers Royals 19 times apiece instead?

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