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The Giants might keep Bumgarner and try to contend, but if they dangle him, pitching-hungry suitors will line up.
A four-time All-Star who’s finished in the top 10 in National League Cy Young Award voting four times, Bumgarner cranks his performance past “11” during the postseason.
In 102.1 playoff innings, Bumgarner sports a 2.11 ERA. He hauled the Giants across the finish line in 2014 with one of the most iconic Fall Classic pitching performances of all time and won the World Series MVP. Injuries, including a broken hand suffered in spring training, dinged him in 2018, but he posted a 3.26 ERA and has mostly defined durability during his career.
San Francisco limped through a second consecutive losing campaign in ’18 and fired general manager Bobby Evans in September. Trading MadBum would be unpopular in the Bay Area, but it could be prudent.
“That would certainly be heavy in the equation, and I’m sure that would come up in the interview process,” executive Brian Sabean said of a hypothetical Bumgarner swap while discussing the Giants’ GM search, per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area.
With that in mind, let’s examine five potential landing spots for the Giants ace and the prospect packages the Orange and Black might net in return.
This is all informed guesswork, but it’s an interesting thought experiment as we wait for the hot stove to crackle to life.
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Odds are, the Giants won’t deal Bumgarner within the National League West. If they do, the Arizona Diamondbacks would be a fit.
The Diamondbacks could lose ace Patrick Corbin in free agency. After claiming the National League’s top wild-card slot in 2017, they whiffed on the postseason in 2018.
Any trade for Bumgarner would start with the Diamondbacks’ top two MLB.com prospects: right-handers Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener.
Duplantier posted a 2.69 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 67 innings at Double-A, while Widener posted a 2.75 ERA with 176 strikeouts in 137.1 innings at the same level.
The Giants might also be intrigued by Pavin Smith, a first baseman and polished hitter who was drafted out of the University of Virginia at No. 7 overall in 2017.
Again, it’s a long shot. But marrying Bumgarner to right-hander Zack Greinke and lefty Robbie Ray would give Arizona an elite rotation.
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The Milwaukee Brewers got to the doorstep of the Fall Classic in October, pushing the Los Angeles Dodgers to Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.
Their starting pitchers, however, ranked seventh in the Senior Circuit and 11th overall with a 3.92 ERA and lack a bona fide ace. Bumgarner would fill that role and could help push Milwaukee even deeper into October.
To land him, the Brew Crew would need to surrender toolsy outfielder Corey Ray (27 home runs and 37 steals at Double-A) and probably second baseman Keston Hiura (.293 average, 13 home runs and 15 steals in High-A and Double-A).
Considering how close they got to the promised land in ’18, it might be worth gutting the top tier of the farm system for a hurler of Bumgarner’s skill and reputation.
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The Houston Astros failed to repeat as world champions in 2018. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel will test free agency and could sign elsewhere. The stage is set for the ‘Stros to add a southpaw.
Sure, they’ve got right-handers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole under contract and don’t need to acquire another top arm. A catcher and bullpen depth might be higher priorities.
But picture Bumgarner plying his trade in Houston. How much scarier would the Astros be with one of the best postseason gunslingers of his generation taking the ball every fifth day?
The Giants would surely inquire about outfielder Kyle Tucker and right-hander Forrest Whitley. The ‘Stros shouldn’t give up either elite prospect for a one-year rental and could counter with a package built around powerful Cuban Yordan Alvarez, who hit 20 homers with a .904 OPS in 88 games in Double-A and Triple-A, plus an ancillary piece such as hard-throwing lefty Cionel Perez.
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The Atlanta Braves blossomed ahead of schedule and won the National League East in 2018. They’re young, they’re hungry, and they’re on the rise.
A native of Hickory, North Carolina, Bumgarner could return to his southern roots with Atlanta and would bring invaluable experience to a youthful roster.
The Braves aren’t going to listen to requests for any of their top MLB-level stars such as Ozzie Albies or Ronald Acuna Jr.
But right-hander Ian Anderson (2.49 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 119.1 innings in High-A and Double-A) and high-upside 19-year-old outfielder Drew Waters (.293 average and 23 steals in Single-A and High-A) might be enough to tempt San Francisco and transform Atlanta from intriguing upstart to genuine title contender.
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The New York Yankees need starting pitching. In their American League Division Series loss to the Boston Red Sox, no Yankees starter threw more than five innings, and other than Masahiro Tanaka, no starter recorded more than nine outs.
Despite setting a single-season record for team home runs (267), the Yanks were sitting at home when the Red Sox won the pennant and then bathed in World Series champagne.
That simply won’t do in the Bronx.
New York could spend on the free-agent market and sign an ace such as Corbin. Or it could pick up the phone and call San Francisco.
If the Giants are listening, the Yankees could put together a package built on left-hander Justus Sheffield and right-hander Domingo Acevedo. It would be a steep price to pay. Sheffield was largely dominant in Double-A and Triple-A in 2018 and made his big league debut. Acevedo needs more polish, but his fastball touches triple digits.
Bumgarner, however, is the postseason horse the Yankees lacked last season. Tether him to that offense, and look out.