Madison Bumgarner

Phillies free-agent target: Madison Bumgarner

Phillies free-agent target: Madison Bumgarner

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.

The vitals

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.

Scout’s take

“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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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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