Madison Bumgarner

Lots of buzz about Madison Bumgarner joining one of Phillies' rivals

Lots of buzz about Madison Bumgarner joining one of Phillies' rivals

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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Giants 5, Phillies 0: One hit, one stinking hit, in third straight loss

Giants 5, Phillies 0: One hit, one stinking hit, in third straight loss

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This was not pretty.

Aaron Nola had a rare off night and the Phillies’ bats had another poor night. The result was an embarrassing 5-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night.

The Phillies had just one hit and three base runners in the game.

Giants’ starter Madison Bumgarner tied Phillies hitters in knots. He did not allow a hit until there was one out in the sixth inning and he finished with seven innings of one-hit, shutout ball.

Pinch-hitter Cesar Hernandez had the Phillies’ only hit, a single.

Bumgarner relied heavily on a four-seam fastball and a cutter, but he was not overpowering. His best fastball was 92 mph and the pitch averaged 90 mph. He struck out just three. He threw 85 pitches and got 21 called strikes.

Mike Yastrzemski led the Giants with a two-run double and a solo homer.

The loss was the Phillies’ third in a row — all on this road trip — and sixth in the last nine games. They had entered the day tied for the second NL wild-card spot, but are now off the pace by a half-game. At 59-56, they have the same record as the New York Mets, who were once dead and buried in the standings but have rallied into contention with 13 wins in the last 14 games. The Phils are going in the opposite direction (see story).

Bad offense

The Phils have scored one run in the last two games and that came on a Bryce Harper homer in the ninth inning Wednesday night after the Phils had already been down, 6-0.

Nola's night

The right-hander entered the game with a 1.91 ERA and 10.71 strikeouts per nine innings in his previous nine starts. Nola was tagged for seven hits and three runs in five innings. He allowed four straight hits, capped by Yastrzemski’s two-run double, and three runs in the third inning. Nola walked two and struck out three.

Not a fan

The Giants’ home park at 24 Willie Mays Plaza is one of the most beautiful in baseball, but Nola is probably not a fan. In three career starts in the place, he is 0-2 with an 8.77 ERA. He has allowed 13 earned runs and 24 hits in 13 1/3 innings.

Sloppy sixth

Catcher Andrew Knapp made a throwing error and Nick Pivetta walked two and threw a wild pitch that resulted in a run.

Tough out

Bumgarner is a very good hitting pitcher. He hit his 18th career homer earlier this season. Bumgarner gave Nola fits in two plate appearances. He finished a nine-pitch at-bat with a single to help fuel a three-run rally in the third inning and he worked a six-pitch walk in the fourth inning.

Kingery's defense

One night after costing the Phils a run with a defensive miscue at third base, Scott Kingery started at second base, his best position, and made two defensive gems, one on a tag play, one on a slow ground ball.

Transaction

The Phillies activated Jay Bruce from the injured list and sent Adam Haseley to Triple A. Manager Gabe Kapler explained why the Phillies subtracted a hot bat.

Up next

Lefty Drew Smyly (2-6, 7.01) opposes Giants right-hander Tyler Beede (3-6, 5.38) on Friday night.

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MLB trade rumors: Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, Mike Minor all realistic Phillies trade targets

MLB trade rumors: Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, Mike Minor all realistic Phillies trade targets

Outwardly, the Phillies feel they have a good amount of starting pitching depth with Jerad Eickhoff, Cole Irvin, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta all potential options as the Nos. 4 and 5 starters.

But how confident can they really be in any of the four of them on a start-by-start basis?

Eickhoff, who faces a tough Brewers team tonight, has experienced predictable regression in his last two starts, allowing five homers and nine runs in nine innings after pitching to a 1.50 ERA and not allowing a home run in his first 30 innings.

Irvin was optioned to Triple A after allowing seven runs in 4⅔ innings on Wednesday night. The degree of difficulty in that start was high — good Cubs team, on the road, with the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field. Irvin's demotion seems less about the Phils closing the book on him and more about them looking to utilize an extra reliever until that turn in the rotation comes up again. Regular rest would have had Irvin start on Monday, but the Phillies are off, meaning they could go with a four-man rotation until June 1.

The Phillies have designs of playing well into October, and it's just hard to believe they have enough starting pitching, even if you have a rosy outlook for guys like Pivetta and Velasquez upon their returns. 

Fortunately for the Phils, their top need aligns with what this summer's trade market offers — in both quality and quantity. 

If the Phillies want to go after a top-of-the-rotation rental, that pitcher will be available. 

If they want a cheaper solution, that exists too.

If the preference is a pitcher who would cost you more in money than in prospects, one of those could be had as well. 

Zack Greinke

Greinke fits that last description. He has about $20 million remaining in salary this year and $64 million total the next two seasons. However, $32M of that $64M is deferred, scheduled to be paid in 2022-26.

Greinke has been awesome this season, going 6-2 with a 2.89 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 11 starts. He has made 10 quality starts in a row. He offers reliability, durability, upside, efficiency and he can certainly help with his bat. Having Greinke is almost like having another hitter. He's 8 for 25 (.320) with two homers, a triple and two doubles this season and has been among the best hitting pitchers every year since 2013.

Because Greinke is 35 and owed so much money, any team after him would have to give up less in prospects than it would for another pitcher in his tier. The Diamondbacks are retooling, and even though they've exceeded expectations by playing .500 baseball in their first 50 games, they would welcome an opportunity to get out from under that contract, which had the highest per-year value in MLB history at the time Greinke signed it.

According to a radio report from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, who is based in Phoenix, the Phillies had a scout at one of Greinke's recent starts specifically to look at him. Teams have scouts everywhere this time of year but that does at least signal interest on the Phillies' part.

Madison Bumgarner

We've mentioned Bumgarner here quite a bit over the last six months because everyone knew the 2019 Giants would be a disaster and that Bumgarner's free agency was approaching.

Bumgarner, unlike Greinke, would be a half-season rental. He can block a trade to the Phillies and several other contending teams, a strategic component of his contract designed to increase his leverage. When a player has one of these clauses, he can use it to add urgency to contract extension talks with the pursuing team or some sort of trade bonus from his current team.

Bumgarner had shown signs of decline the last two seasons with lower strikeout rates, higher ERAs and far fewer innings pitched. This season, he's off to a promising start, striking out 9.3 batters per nine innings compared to 7.6 last season, along with one of the lower walk rates of his career. His fastball velocity is also about a full mile per hour higher than it was last season.

Bumgarner is not as efficient as Greinke. Bumgarner deals with a lot of foul balls these days and is typically at 100 pitches through six innings. He's gone deeper than six just twice this season.

Like Greinke, Bumgarner also helps with his bat, and he has one of the strongest postseason track records of any pitcher ever.

Though he'd be a potential rental, Bumgarner will still cost the Phillies or any team a young player they aren't enthused about trading.

When weighing Greinke vs. Bumgarner, another consideration is that Greinke has pitched better the last two years in one of the five most hitter-friendly parks in the game, while Bumgarner has been performing in the best park for pitchers.

Mike Minor

Minor is a left-hander the Phillies have shown interest in during recent trade seasons and offseasons. Once upon a time, he was a big pitching prospect for the Braves, but things didn't go as planned in Atlanta and it took him until close to his 30th birthday to find stability and consistency. 

After a dominant season in the Royals' bullpen in 2017, the Rangers took a chance on Minor as a starter and it has paid off. In 38 starts for Texas since the beginning of 2018, Minor is 17-11 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.12 WHIP while pitching for a bad team in a haven for hitters.

Minor is owed about $6.4 million more this season and $9.5 million next season. Those are affordable and attractive salaries for a mid-rotation starter. Because of that affordability, the Rangers will rightfully look for a solid trade package for him. 

It's too early to speculate what any of these trade packages would look like specifically, but from least to most, it seems like it would go Greinke, Bumgarner, Minor, with Minor commanding more than Bumgarner only because he's under contract longer.

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