Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Armchair GM: Should the Giants Trade Madison Bumgarner?

The GM meetings got underway yesterday.  In interviews since the postseason press conference, both Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans seem to be sounding more urgent and more willing to do something that would massively shake up the roster.  On the Giants own website, Evans was quoted as saying that while they are not shopping Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner or Brandon Crawford, they are willing to consider strong offers.  It is not a stretch to think that Brian Sabean may see parallels between the 1996 Giants and the 2017 Giants and be itching to pull off another Matt Williams type trade.

There are several reasons why, out of those three players, Madison Bumgarner may be the most likely to be traded.  The biggest reason why is also the reason why on the surface he seems to be the player the Giants would least want to trade.  He's a #1 SP that comes with a #4 SP price for the next 2 years, which is a lifetime in MLB.  In short, he is the one player the Giants could reasonably expect to get a massive return of elite young players for.  By contrast, while Posey and Crawford have trade value, the return would be limited by the large contracts they already have.

So we have one big reason why Bumgarner might be trade bait.  Are there others?  The Giants just exercised a very team-friendly option for 2018 and have another one for 2019.  Beyond that, they have to either extend his contract, which will undoubtedly be large and long, or they risk losing him to free agency after 2019.  Do the Giants want to extend Madison Bumgarner with the kind of contract it would take to get him to sign the papers?  He's still relatively young for a veteran pitcher, but he has a whole lot of miles on the arm.  The Giants track record with those kinds of contracts is downright terrible.  Barry Zito and Matt Cain are exhibits A and B.  They dodged a bullet with Tim Lincecum.  Johnny Cueto's contract is already looking iffy at best.  Let's take a look at Bumgarner's average FB velocities over the last few years(from Fangraphs):  2013- 92.5, 2014- 92.8, 2015- 93.0, 2016- 91.7, 2017- 91.3.  See a trend there?  Madison Bumgarner may be already 2 years past the peak of his career, at least in terms of his physical abilities.

Then there is the dirt bike incident.  Players that do things on or off the field that the Giants do not like don't tend to stick around long.  Remember Jeff Kent and the truck washing caper?  Melky Cabrera?  AJ Pierzynski?  There was some happy talk after Bummy's incident because they did not want to PO the big guy, but I wouldn't be shocked if there is some residual resentment from the front office.

So, in summary, here are the reasons why the Giants might be willing to pull the trigger on a Bumgarner trade:

1.  He'd bring the biggest return
2.  They might not want to give another mega contract to a pitcher with a ton of mileage on his arm.
3.  The Dirt Bike Incident.

The reasons why they might not want to trade him are fairly obvious, I think.


With that in mind, I set out to find a deal that might work for the Giants.  The deal has to be to a contending team that thinks Bumgarner can substantially increase their chances of winning the Commissioner's Trophy in the next 2 years.  It also has to be a team that is loaded with MLB ready prospects or young players with MLB experience they have backup plans for.  A second criteria is the Giants have to get young MLB ready pitching as part of the return package.  Teams I looked were the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros, Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals.   The Red Sox, Astros and Brewers have strong farm systems, but are light on MLB ready pitching.  The Yankees and Cardinals seem to be the best fit.  Bumgarner would be a tremendous addition to both teams and both teams have room to give a solid return.

Specific criteria for the return would be 1.  At least 4 good young players.  2. Need to fill specific holes at OF in 3B.  3.  Bring back at least 1 solid MLB ready pitcher.  Here are the two potential trades I came up with:

1.  Giants send Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees for IF Gleyber Torres, OF Clint Frazier, RHP Chad Green, RHP Chance Adams.

Torres can step right in at 3B as soon as he is fully recovered from TJ surgery on his left(non-throwing) arm.  Frazier is an MLB ready CF with both speed and power.  Green is a beast of a reliever who can go multiple innings per appearance and might even be able to start.  Chance Adams is a decent SP prospect.  Torres also opens up the possibility of a Brandon Crawford trade if the Giants were to get a good offer for him.

2.  Giants send Madison Bumgarner to the Cardinals for RHP Luke Weaver, RHP Sandy Alcantara, IF Aledmys Diaz and OF Harrison Bader.  Weaver can step into the rotation, Diaz can plug in at 3B, Bader can play CF immediately and Alcantara is a high ceiling arm.  Giants could also ask for Alex Reyes instead of Weaver, but I was not sure if they would want to take the chance on him before seeing how he performs after TJ surgery.  They could also ask for Jack Flaherty instead of Alcantara.

Personally, I like the Yankees deal better.  Is it enough for Madison Bumgarner?


  1. I'm ok with trade option #1 getting Torres, Frazier, Green, and Adams(hopefully someone better like Severino??) but I wouldn't want to give up MadBum to the Cards for any of those players. Weaver and Flaherty didn't impress me when I saw them pitch against bad Giants teams and Reyes has the TJ which is another risk. I also don't see the Cards willing to give up a package good enough for likely 2 more years of MadBum when they seem to need more than just one Ace to win it all.

    I agree with you that this is a move we have to consider and embrace. His best years surely are behind him and the chances of him impacting this team over the next 2 years enough to win another WS are highly unlikely. It is time to turn the page and NOBODY else will get as much in return as MadBum. He also could be on a serious decline and if he starts out the first half next year slow, his value would be in the basement along with the Giants in the standings.

    My trade is not going to meet all of your standards listed above but hear me out. I would target the Cubs first of all and try to work a deal centered around Happ and Contreras. I would also start the deal by dangling Shark or Cueto first and work my way up to MadBum if needed. I figure that if we could get a good return for Cueto or Shark instead of MadBum then no-brainer but if we had to deal MadBum then work your way up to it by using Shark and Cueto who should both have some value to Chicago.

    After weeks of negotiating and back and forth, the trade would end up being MadBum and potentially a reasonable package of players (low-mid level prospects/bullpen) for Happ, Contreras, and 2 of the cubs top pitching prospects (6 out of their 7 top prospects are pitchers). This would give the Giants 2 OF options/future catcher and 2b/3b in Happ and 2 SP's that would be in the rotation hopefully by 2019.

    Lineup for 2018:

    2B Panik
    1B Belt
    C Posey
    CF Happ
    LF Contreras
    SS Crawford
    RF Pence/Slater/Parker/Mac
    3B Panday/Arroyo/Tomlinson

    If Panik gets traded or somehow we acquire an actual leadoff then the lineup would look even better but for now we would at least have the makings of a pretty decent top 6-7 batters. The rotation would take a huge hit obviously but we would still have Cueto, Shark, Moore, Stanton, and Blach to start the season. Alex Cobb could be a nice under the radar signing (4 years 50 million is reasonable) or just do what the Dodgers have done and sign a few high risk guys like Mike Minor, Sabathia, or Chatwood and call it a day.

  2. One of my favorite Giants of all-time, joining Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Robby Thompson, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Tim Lincecum in my personal Giants ring of honor. Madbum is a near certain Hall of Famer. Madbum exhibits the Warrior mentality that makes a difference on a team that wants to ascend from good to great. .......... And, the Giants probably NEED to trade him. The mess that is the Giants current 40 man roster is, in my view, more seriously deep and dangerous than management is acknowledging publicly. Privately, I thing the Giants front office knows that a bad off-season plan aimed at a quick turnaround could result in several years of pain.

    As Giants fans, we have been blessed. We have a great run of recent World Series success - three rings in five years is something most franchises have never experienced, and likely never will. We have strong, stable management. We have an awesome ballpark located in a world class city. We should be willing to weather the storm and support the team through a rebuild.

    It would be horribly painful to see Madison Bumgarner playing for someone else, but other than hoping for dumb luck to vault the Giants back to contender status, a Bumgarner trade represents our chance of success in the not-too-distant future.

    1. Well, definitely nobody in the NL has experienced it since the Cards during WWII.

  3. I don't know if the front office is blowing smoke or maybe being more realistic than most fans are. The performance the Giants have shown since the 2016 All-star break makes it very unlikely they can turn it around. There also is no chance that he would be a Giant the rest of his career anyway. So if the return worth the trade than why not. The Niners traded Montana, so anyone can be traded. Even though it still kind of hurts.

  4. While I'd like to see Bumgarner signed, the fact is the Giants are in contract hell and need to shed payroll. So in any of these hypotheticals, if he gets traded, I'd be willing to take less back and shed Pence & Span.

    Also, no Diaz. He's a pretty bad fielder and really only brings gap-power. He had a real hot start when he came up, then MLB pitching figured him out and he crashed back to earth.

    I'd rather pick up one of their catching prospects -- Knizner or Kelly. But I doubt Kelly would get traded here as he's a big trade-chip (MLB ready catcher, Top-100 prospect, etc.) for the Cards.

    Bader, OTOH, is a good pick. I like him. Same with Mags Sierra whom you didn't mention.

  5. Very interesting proposal of trading Bumgarner, I know you've mentioned it before and it's been kicked around a little by others but I have to be honest I always scoffed at the idea cuz I mean come on, it's Bumgarner!

    However, I'm starting to warm up to the idea. Particularly after thinking about how the Giants will have to either sign him to a long term deal soon or trade him away anyway, in which case it would be much better to trade him now and get more in return. Also, after seeing the fastball velocity decline that is a pretty telling trend.

    So I have to say, I'm all for a trade now! And I also like the first one with the Yankees better than the second, particularly if Gleybar Torres can fully recover from the injury and I think he should be able to given his youth, that would be quite a haul along with Frazier and some interesting arms.

    ALso, if you believe like I halfway do that the Giant's current window has closed, then trading Bumgarner now for great young prospects is a smart move, particularly with the #2 overall pick soon coming into the system.

  6. Just don't trade Heliot Ramos or Jacob Gonzalez. It takes time to build a farm system up. The Giants finally have some talent to build around. Please, don't screw it up. Two early picks in the June 2018 draft to add more premium talent. Patience will pay off.

    1. This report also scares me, 2016 draft was dynamite and Heliot Ramos was the most exciting draft pick in our system since Arroyo. My love of baseball stems from farm systems and the fact that other sports don't really have them and/or they don't play such an integral part. No guarantees you'll ever make it out of farm leagues either, I enjoy seeing that it took 7 years to develop a la Stratton or 2 seconds for Arroyo (my fave part of last season was him getting called up to Bigs). I despise 10 year contracts and it would suck to see this Puerto Rican kid shipped off before we even see him in Sacramento.

  7. I know I'm in the minority, but I feel that their 2017 was a $hit $torm of injuries, which seems to happen to the Giants in odd years for some odd reason. This year, Bumgarner, Cueto, Melancon, Smith, Belt, were fell for a significant amount of time, our co-aces, closer, key lefty setup, and leading HR hitter (and best hitter not named Buster, but best power hitter period). Add to that lackluster offensive years from Posey (relatively, the lack of second half power is clear), Crawford (family death effect or decline?), 3B and LF production, Moore (due to loss of mechanics due to new pitch, cutter), and Samardzija (as he was still getting used to pitching in a new way, which led to very few walks but too many hits; he was great in last third of season though), and that was a lot of suckage.

    Assuming the co-aces returns, Moore can get back to where he was in 2016, and Shark continues from his good ending to 2017, we have a great rotation and bullpen (assuming Smith and Melancon returns to form), where we don't need to have a great offense to win. And with both co-aces having relatively rested arms, I am hoping for dueling aces throughout the whole season and post-season.

    Our offense was OK once Panik started hitting at the start of June. Once he started hitting, the team averaged 4.1 runs for the rest of the season. If you look at the offense with Panik hitting and Belt still in the lineup, the Giants averaged 4.5 runs per game. Anywhere in that range (and that's with the suckage happening last season) and we can win with the pitching.

    I also wonder if Pence is not done, as many assume. His peripherals did not look out of whack with his other recent seasons. This year was similar to his poor season when we got him, with low BABIP, but his other rates look pretty much like his career numbers. So I would not be surprised to see a rebound in his production, which would help a lot too.

    So I understand the rationale to trading him, but I personally would keep him and go for it at least two more times, then see how many years he's going to insist upon to re-sign. I think we are set up, if we can upgrade CF, to compete in the next two seasons, and he's a beast in the playoffs. Plus, I hate that Marichal and Perry ended up elsewhere, and would like to keep him in the fold as long as we can reasonably do.

    I don't see him a HoF yet, especially after this season's hiccup, but he's certainly on that path if he can continue for another 5-7 seasons at this rate. That plus his playoff and especially WS heroics would get him in.

    I would revisit trading Cueto after 2018 season assuming that he returns to his 2016 form, as then we should be able to get a treasure chest of prospects then for him, with 3 years left on the contract. But I'm greedy and would roll the dice again.

    1. Bad luck and injuries contributed to the Giants woes last. year, but were by no means the sole cause of the collapse. In addition to a significant talent gap, the leaguewide HR surge caught them flatfooted. Unless the ball gets a lot less lively, I don't think you can count on pitching and defense to hold down opposing runs as in the past.

      Even in the absolute best case scenario, the current Giants roster has several specific holes to fill and the Luxury Tax cap severely constrains their options for filling them.

      In short, thinking the Giants can stand pat and compete in 2018 is almost certainly a formula for disappointment.

    2. I agree with everything obsessive said. I think this team got hammered with an uncommon amount of injuries (also youngsters Arroyo and Slater). If the team is still scuffling at the deadline next year, revisit trading away pieces. However, let the team get healthy before declaring it done.

    3. Injuries were a factor but not the whole story. Brian Sabean himself has said the Giants cannot afford to stand pat and has gone so far as to say they may need to do thinks that were "unthinkable" in the past.

      Thinking the Giants can compete with last year's team is simply fanciful thinking.

  8. Appreciate the comments. I think I hit the wrong button one one lengthy comment. I did not mean to delete it. I apologize to whoever wrote it.

  9. Bumgarner, Samardzija, Panik, Belt, Pence, and Span for Stanton, Gordon, Yelich, and Prado.

  10. a bumgarner trade may need to happen, i think the giants need prospects and not another magic bullet. bumgarner and shark are two players i would entertain offers for as long as we get top prospects back for them. if we are near the bottom again by next year's deadline it will be time to hold a fire sale and face the long rebuild ahead.

  11. It's interesting as I see both sides of the issue without coming down hard on either side. Which is OK since I'm not the GM! But I think rebuilding requires a good dose of high draft picks. Since the team can only draft so many per year, you get them through a monster trade - and that almost certainly means MadBum. Now this is a Bummer as he and Posey are the face of the Giants as far as I'm concerned. When they traded Matt Williams, the team really was in bad shape but this year's team has a core 5-6 that is competitive with the rest of the league (sans power). Speaking of power, if there's one thing that is death to a sports franchise, it is to be chasing a trend. Trade for Stanton and another bopper and 2018 is the year of small ball. These guys in the front office have to think for themselves and not be zigging when the sport is zagging.

    A quick story: opening day 1997 and i'm with some friends. They asked about the upcoming baseball season and I told my buddies that I was so angry about the Matt Williams trade that I was now a free agent fan. They laughed and asked who was my new fave team. I hadn't given it a thought (as i wasn't serious) and then responded quickly with, "Uh, ok, I'm now a Florida Marlins fan." Dang, they go on and win the World Series. Later I thought if I only had placed few dollars on that play in Vegas!

    In short, not sure the team should be burned to the ground but Sabean's comments has me wondering...

    1. i'll be podcasting on sunday why the giants should not trade for stanton and why contracts like his and the ones scott boras is pursuing for martinez and harper will lead to a lockout in 2021.

  12. Hey Doc,
    What are your thoughts on this Atlanta Braves IFA scandal? Reports say the punishment will be severe with a possibility that players signed in 2016 will become FA including Kevin Maitan. Man would I be excited if that Giants got him...
    J (SF) not the other J whose been posting

    1. IDK. I don't really have a handle on exactly what they did wrong. It seems like it's all been very hush-hush. Keith Law claims that whatever the Braves did, most likely every other organization is doing and their biggest sin was getting caught. The sudden departure of Copollela long before the investigation was apparently complete tells me it must have been pretty bad and probably more egregious than what other teams are doing. I'm wondering if it was possibly more than just a violation of MLB rules and possibly some type of unlawful activity?

      Anyway, what will MLB do with the prospects they take away from the Braves? Will they be declared free agents? Will they be subject to international signing rules? It's hard for me to believe MLB will suddenly grant unrestricted FA to several players who are still playing on the low minors. Maybe minor league free agents with the Braves excluded from signing them? That seems like it would be a huge and unfair bonanza for signing teams.

      Seems like it might be best to simply ban any guilty individuals from working in the game for, say, 5 years and let the Braves keep their prospects. Maybe dock them future signing bonus money or draft picks?

    2. Just read that when Boston was stripped of some international prospects for rules violations, they were declared free agents under international signing rules and the BoSox were excluded from re-signing.

      If the Braves prospects are freed prior to July 2, the Giants won't have much of a chance since they are still under the $300 K limit per signing until then.

    3. Oh yeah the Lucius Fox penalty still haunts us. I think after this year we're in the clear right?