Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.
Today, we check in on Madison Bumgarner, a four-time National League All-Star and three-time World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants.
It’s hard to believe that Bumgarner just turned 30 in August. He’s already pitched for more than a decade in the majors and has finished in the top 10 of NL Cy Young voting four times. An October stud, he helped pitch the Giants to four postseason berths and three World Series titles. He was World Series MVP in 2014.
Bumgarner is a throwback, a big, strong, don't-mess-with-me left-hander who gives his team quality innings. He swings a good bat, too, as evidenced in 19 career homers and 14 career pinch-hitting appearances in which he has four singles, a double and three walks.
Bumgarner has carried a heavy load with seven seasons of 200-plus innings in the last nine years. He missed significant time with freak injuries in 2017 and 2018. He injured his throwing shoulder in a dirt bike mishap in 2017 and suffered a broken hand when he was struck by a line drive in 2018.
Why he fits
Apologies for sounding like a broken record, but the Phillies need a major upgrade in starting pitching and Bumgarner, like previously profiled free agents Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler and Stephen Strasburg, would provide one.
There were rumblings of Bumgarner being on the decline early in 2019, but he bounced back and proved his health by pitching to a 3.90 ERA in 207⅔ innings and holding opposing hitters to a .228 batting average over his final 15 starts. Bumgarner’s fastball, which had shown signs of slippage, came back as the season went on. The pitch ranges from 88 to 94 mph and sits around 92. He also features a good cutter that he likes to use a lot.
The Phillies have designs on winning in 2020 and Bumgarner is the definition of a winner. He’d bring a toughness to the pitching staff the way J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper bring a toughness to the lineup. Bumgarner is also left-handed and that should help.
Word is the North Carolina native would like to return to San Francisco or pitch near home and that could help the Phillies. But the Atlanta Braves are interested and they have geography and a ready-to-win team on their side.
Why he doesn’t fit
The heavy workload is a concern on a long-term deal, but probably not a deal-breaker because Bumgarner got better as last season went on and the Phillies are starved for pitching.
Cozy Citizens Bank Park could be a concern because Bumgarner is a fly-ball pitcher who had the lowest ground-ball percentage (35.8) among NL starters last season. Also, he benefitted greatly by doing his work in that pitchers paradise at 24 Willie Mays Plaza in San Francisco last season. He had a 2.93 ERA and a .619 opponents OPS in 19 starts at home last season as opposed to 5.29 and .840 in 15 starts on the road.
The price tag
Bumgarner was one of baseball’s great bargains over the last decade. He signed a six-year, $35.5 million deal before the 2012 season and delivered a lot of greatness on his way to winning three World Series rings. He made $12 million each of the last two seasons as the contract contained two option years. Now, Bumgarner is looking to get paid. With so many teams needing pitching, he could be looking at something in the neighborhood of four years and $75 million.
“He proved his health in 2019. His velocity came back to its pre-injury standard late in the season. He uses that cutter a lot. You’ll end up paying for a lot of what he did in the past because he’s not an ace. However, he’s still a strong No. 3 or a fringy No. 2. He might be best staying in the NL West with big yards in San Francisco and San Diego. Philadelphia has a huge hole in its rotation, but that small yard could be a concern. His intangibles are off the charts and any team would benefit from his toughness.”
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