Madison Bumgarner Rumors

Quick Hits: Astros, Middlebrooks, Peavy, Rodriguez

Matt Harvey posted a game score of 97 while taking a perfect game into the seventh, striking out 12, and walking none over nine innings against the White Sox Tuesday night, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports notes (on Twitter). Only 40 outings of nine innings or fewer since 1916 have earned a higher game score. Here's a collection of notes from around the majors.

  • The nine Asian-born pitchers who have pitched in the big leagues this year have combined to post numbers similar to a typical Justin Verlander season, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs says. Those nine pitchers have 241 1/3 innings pitched so far in 2013, with a 2.91 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. Yu Darvish has been a big part of that, of course, but Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hisashi Iwakuma, Hiroki Kuroda, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara have also pitched well. The past struggles of pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Irabu have allowed today's Asian-born pitchers to fly under the radar somewhat, Cameron argues, and he wonders whether pitchers from overseas leagues might be undervalued in the market. Specifically, he says, emphasis on fastball velocity and breaking balls may cause teams to undervalue pitchers with great splitters or changeups.
  • Free agency has become "a used car lot cluttered with lemons," with only a few bargains to be found, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated argues, citing the examples of Josh Hamilton (Angels), B.J. Upton (Braves) and Zack Greinke (Dodgers). Thus far, Hamilton and Upton have failed to produce with their new teams, and Greinke is hurt. In the past four seasons, Verducci notes, there have been 24 free-agent contracts worth $35MM or more. Most of those have turned out badly, and some (such as Jason Bay's deal with the Mets) have looked bad almost immediately. That means that "win[ning] the winter" by signing the biggest-name free agents isn't all it's cracked up to be, as the 2012 Marlins can attest. This year's Angels and Dodgers have struggled out of the gate, and so have the Blue Jays (who had a big offseason mostly driven by trades).
  • The Astros' decisions to designate Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez for assignment made their outfield more athletic, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart says. Robbie Grossman, Brandon Barnes and Jimmy Paredes started in the outfield for the Astros Tuesday night. "We went out to get more athletic, get more guys who have the ability to mishit the ball and still have a possibility of getting on base because of their athletic ability," says manager Bo Porter.
  • Will Middlebrooks and David Ross left the Red Sox's game against the Twins Tuesday night after they collided. There is no indication yes that Middlebrooks will miss significant time. But after Middlebrooks, the Red Sox have little depth at third base, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reports. Utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco "isn't the answer," MacPherson says, and the choices at Triple-A Pawtucket aren't thrilling. Minor-league veteran Justin Henry, who was acquired in the offseason for Rule 5 pick Jeff Kobernus, may be the best option there. Brock Holt, who arrived from the Pirates with Joel Hanrahan in the offseason, is another possibility. Of course, Middlebrooks himself has struggled this year, hitting just .195/.232/.281.
  • Jake Peavy does not have a no-trade clause in his new contract with the White Sox, and he doesn't need one, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. "I told (GM) Rick Hahn that if he didn’t trade me before spring training was over, that was good enough for me," says Peavy, pointing out that it's unlikely he will be traded if the White Sox are contending.
  • Rosenthal also notes that Madison Bumgarner's contract with the Giants could be one of the most team-friendly in baseball. Bumgarner, 23, would have been eligible for free agency after the 2016 season, but his new deal contains cheap team options that can allow the Giants to carry him through 2019.
  • The Brewers have assigned Francisco Rodriguez to Class A+ Brevard County, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. Rodriguez will make three relief appearances there, then head to Triple-A Nashville. The Brewers must promote Rodriguez to the majors by May 17, or he can become a free agent. Rodriguez posted a 4.38 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 78 appearances with the Brewers in 2012.
  • Diamond Mines' new database provides a fascinating look at old scouting reports, including many in the scouts' own handwriting.

Assessing Early Returns On Recent Giants Extensions

No MLB team finalized more extensions this offseason than the Giants, who locked up five of their top players. General manager Brian Sabean committed more than $200MM in future salaries in the four-month period from the beginning of January to the beginning of April. The extensions promised to solidify the team’s rotation long-term and cap the future earnings of a pair of arbitration eligible All-Stars. 

For the most part, the extensions have worked for the team. Tim Lincecum's disappointing season is the largest blemish on an otherwise encouraging set of contracts for San Francisco. 

Matt Cain - Giants (PW)

Lincecum, whose early-career accomplishments assured him of a substantial raise, signed a two-year, $40.5MM contract extension to cover his final two arbitration years. Though he has pitched better lately, his ERA sits at 5.30 in what has been the most disappointing season of his MLB career. It’d be understandable if the Giants are relieved Lincecum didn’t accept their $100MM extension offer before the season. In that context, $40.5MM isn’t so expensive. Still, if the team had gone year to year with Lincecum, he wouldn’t have been locked in for a $22MM salary in 2013; a non-tender would have been possible.

Three other Giants starters have exceeded expectations since signing multiyear deals. Vogelsong, who signed a two-year, $8.3MM contract in January, is repeating last year's success. He has a 2.85 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 on his way toward a career high in innings pitched. Vogelsong would have been a free agent after the 2012 season if the Giants hadn't locked him up. They'll surely be glad to have him back for just $5MM in 2013 (the extension also includes a 2014 club option).

Like Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner has replicated his 2011 success. The 23-year-old left-hander has inserted himself into the NL Cy Young Award race by posting a 2.83 ERA with five times as many strikeouts as walks in 171 2/3 innings this year. He obtained a record deal for pitchers with one-plus years of MLB service (five-years, $35MM), so it’s not as though Bumgarner obtained anything less than full value back in April. But this deal could hardly be going better for the Giants.

Matt Cain also obtained a record-setting contract this spring. He obtained a five-year, $112.5MM contract that established a record for right-handed pitchers. He's earning Cy Young Award consideration again after pitching a perfect game and posting a 2.83 ERA in 174 2/3 innings. If Cain had reached the free agent market this offseason, he would be the most sought-after pitcher available. The Giants could have re-signed him, of course, but not without spending considerably more than they did in April.

Lastly, Pablo Sandoval's play has justified his new three-year, $17.15MM contract — at least when he's been on the field. Although he spent time on the disabled list with a strained hamstring and a fractured hamate bone, he does have an .821 OPS in 294 plate appearances. This extension had limited upside for the Giants in the first place, since it didn’t buy out any free agent years or include any club options.

For now the Giants are presumably focused on maintaining their division lead over the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. A few months from now, once the most chaotic part of the offseason has ended, Sabean and the rest of the San Francisco front office will encounter a familiar challenge: it'll be time to consider extensions for a new set of players led by All-Star catcher Buster Posey.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


Quick Hits: Glass, Bell, Bumgarner

The 1909 T-206 Honus Wagner baseball card continues to be the hottest item in the memorabilia market, as one of the rare cards was sold today for $1.2MM in an online auction.  Here's some news from around the majors as we head into the weekend…



Examining The Madison Bumgarner Extension

It’s not surprising that Madison Bumgarner's part of the Giants’ long-term vision. The 22-year-old is establishing himself as one of the best left-handers in the National League as he begins his second full season. But the specifics of the five-year, $35MM extension he signed yesterday were somewhat surprising. Here’s a breakdown of the deal:

What Distinguishes Bumgarner From His Peers

Bumgarner signed a record deal for pitchers with one-plus years of MLB service time. Most pitchers in Bumgarner’s service class have signed four-year deals in the $10-12MM range, but Bumgarner’s deal corresponds to the five-year, $30MM template for starters with two-plus years of service. 

How’d he pull that off? I am guessing his representatives at SFX argued that he has enough bulk and quality to separate himself from most of his own service class and place him alongside more experienced pitchers.  

Many players in Bumgarner’s own service class don’t compare. He had 150-200 more innings than pitchers such as Cory Luebke, Wade Davis or Brett Anderson had when they signed as one-plus players (for an interesting counter-example, check out James Shieldsstats through 2007). SFX presumably said ‘Bumgarner needs to earn as much as the pitchers in the next service class because he is as accomplished as them.’

Why Bumgarner Could Ask For $30MM+

Pitchers such as Jon Niese, Derek Holland, Clay Buchholz and Trevor Cahill signed for $25-30.5MM as two-plus players. They have only a slight advantage over Bumgarner in career wins, starts and innings despite their one-year advantage in service time. Bumgarner has more innings than Ricky Romero or Yovani Gallardo did at the time of their deals, and at least as many starts. (Innings matter a whole lot when we’re discussing pitchers’ arbitration years.)

There's also quality. Bumgarner’s ERA is substantially below the marks of Niese and Holland and well below the marks of Romero, Gallardo, Cahill and Buchholz and Jon Lester. He also has a better career walk rate than anyone in this group and better career strikeout rate than anyone but Gallardo. Not only has he pitched his share of innings, they’ve been good ones. Cy Young votes and postseason experience help, too.

Still, I wouldn't have expected Bumgarner to sign for more than $30MM. He ultimately obtained more than most pitchers in the service class ahead of him.

Why The Deal Works For The Giants

The Giants likely looked ahead to Bumgarner's arb years and thought 'this guy's going to get expensive in a hurry.' They know better than any team that elite pitchers can earn lots by going year to year through the arbitration process.

Bumgarner had been on track for a first year arbitration salary of $4MM or more. It would only get more expensive from there, so the Giants obtained some potential for savings in arb here. The deal also insures against the possibility that Bumgarner breaks out into an ace.

Arbitration savings are nice, but they’re a risky way to try to save given the guaranteed commitment required. Most importantly, the Giants extended Bumgarner’s time in San Francisco by at least one year, and possibly three. The Giants now control more of his prime years.

Why The Deal Works For Bumgarner

Let’s start with the $35MM guarantee. Not only does Bumgarner obtain a ton of money, he establishes a new record for pitchers in his service class.

It’s also worth noting that this deal won't necessarily represent the only big payday of his career. At the latest, he'll hit free agency following his age-29 season. Left-handed starters C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee have shown teams are willing to pay for elite starters well after they turn 30.


Bay Area Notes: San Jose, Bumgarner, Lincecum

Long-time Athletics minor league roving instructor Ron Plaza passed away last night at age 77, according to a team media release.  Plaza had been with the A's since 1983, and also worked for the Reds and Cardinals organizations during his 61-year career in baseball as a player, manager and coach.  We at MLBTR send our condolences to Plaza's family, friends and colleagues.

Here's the latest from both the A's and the Giants…

  • The Athletics aim to put their new stadium and proposed move to San Jose on the agenda for next month's owners meetings, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.  By forcing the other owners to vote on the move, the A's would finally get some resolution on an issue that has dragged on for three years.  Neither A's owner Lew Wolff or GM Billy Beane would comment on the story.
  • One of Slusser's sources (Twitter link) isn't certain if the A's will be successful in getting their case heard at the owners meetings.  It will ultimately be up to Bud Selig, who decides on the meetings' agenda.
  • Madison Bumgarner's extension with the Giants is "a win for everyone involved," writes Dave Cameron for Fangraphs.
  • The Giants now have greater cost certainty with Bumgarner and Matt Cain both locked up to multiyear contracts, which Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter) feels will make the team likelier to sign Tim Lincecum to a long-term deal "if he has a good year."  Lincecum signed a two-year pact with the Giants in January that puts him on pace to hit free agency after the 2013 season.

Giants Extend Madison Bumgarner

The Giants don't have the most intimidating offense in the league, but they've got pitching and it's not going anywhere. The team announced a five-year extension for Madison Bumgarner that will keep the left-hander in San Francisco through 2017. The deal, which starts in 2013, includes options for 2018 (club/vesting) and 2019 (club). 

Madison Bumgarner - Giants (PW)

The extension guarantees Bumgarner $35MM over five years, his agency, SFX, announced (all Twitter links). The contract represents a record for pitchers with one-plus years of MLB service, but the Giants saw enough from the 22-year-old to make a record-setting commitment after just one full season.

“Preserving our core pitching for the long term remains a top priority for the Giants and today’s extension certainly helps further that goal,” GM Brian Sabean said in a press release. “Madison has already proven that he is one of the best left handed pitchers in the game today and we are confident that he will continue to succeed for many years to come.”

The guaranteed portion of the extension covers Bumgarner's final pre-arbitration season, his three seasons of arbitration eligibility, and one free agent year assuming that CAA's projected super two cutoff proves accurate. The club options cover free agent seasons. 

Bumgarner's guarantee would increase to $40MM if he qualifies for super two status following the 2012 season — a possibility that now seems remote. ESPN.com's Buster Olney tweets the expected salary breakdown. The deal includes a limited no-trade clause, Olney tweets. Bumgarner can block trades to eight teams per year. 

Bumgarner will pitch alongside Matt Cain, who recently signed an extension that locks him up through 2017. Tim Lincecum's under team control through 2013, as the Giants have been unable to work out a long-term deal with the two-time Cy Young Award winner so far.

As MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows, many pitchers have signed five-year extensions covering their arbitration seasons. However, most had more service time than Bumgarner has now. The 2007 first round selection entered the 2012 season with one year and 127 days of MLB service, but that didn't stop him from setting a record for his service class. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes previewed a possible extension for Bumgarner in December, suggesting SFX would do well to obtain $23-4MM in guaranteed money.

Bumgarner helped the Giants win the 2010 World Series, making 18 regular season starts that year plus three more in the playoffs. He followed up his rookie year by posting a 3.21 ERA with 8.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 46% ground ball rate in 204 2/3 innings in 2011. Though he doesn't throw particularly hard, Bumgarner combines his low-90s fastball with an effective slider to subdue his opponents.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


NL West Notes: Bumgarner, Fontenot, Dodgers

The Giants locked up Matt Cain yesterday and the $112.5MM contract has generated its share of headlines and discussion since. Here are the latest links from Cain’s division, starting in San Francisco:

  • Madison Bumgarner told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle that he’d have interest in a multiyear deal “if it was worth it” (Twitter link). The left-hander said his agent hasn’t addressed a long-term extension with the Giants’ front office. Tim Dierkes discussed Bumgarner as an extension candidate in December, suggesting a five-year deal in the $23-4MM range would be a big win for the 22-year-old.
  • Infielder Mike Fontenot has cleared release waivers and can officially sign anywhere, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The Giants released Fontenot last week.
  • Stan Kasten, one of the key members of the group that won the bidding for the Dodgers, may be looking for another baseball man, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter). Kasten has talked with Tony La Russa, who is expected to join MLB this season.
  • Now that Joey Votto and Prince Fielder have signed mega-deals, Matt Kemp's $160MM extension looks better than ever for the Dodgers, Bill Shaikin of the LA Times writes. Fewer elite players are reaching free agency, so Frank McCourt's decision to spend on Kemp seems like a good one.

Latest On Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner

It appeared earlier this week that the Giants and Matt Cain had built momentum toward an extension. One person in the know even said there's no chance the 2013 free agent signs for less than $100MM. Here are today's updates on talks between Cain, the Giants and teammate Madison Bumgarner:

  • The Giants agreed to a one-year deal with Bumgarner, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The pre-arbitration eligible starter will earn $575K or so in 2012.
  • There's no hard deadline for talks with Cain, Schulman adds. Cain would like negotiations to be done with by Opening Day.
  • Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com suggests the Giants could work out extensions for Cain and Bumgarner within the week. The sides have been working late and the Giants like package announcements, Baggarly tweets. MLBTR has previewed possible extensions for Cain and Bumgarner this past offseason.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports points out that Kevin Brown, the only right-handed pitcher in history to obtain a $100MM deal, signed his contract 13 years ago and suggests the market is ready for a correction by a present-day right-hander such as Cain. The Giants are privately optimistic that they'll lock Cain up, Rosenthal writes.

Quick Hits: Appel, Angels, Uehara, Garland, Oswalt

On this day in 1982, the Padres traded Ozzie Smith, Steve Mura, and Al Olmsted to the Cardinals for Luis DeLeon, Sixto Lezcano and Garry Templeton.  The trade was sparked by both Smith and Templeton having issues with their respective teams.  Here's a look at today's links..

  • Stanford righty Mark Appel isn't a lock for the No. 1 pick in the draft, writes ESPN's Keith Law (Insider req'd). Appel touched 97mph in the first inning of his first start, but sat 91-95mph for the next six innings and doesn't command his fastball well enough in the zone to miss as many bats as he should, says Law. Law also looks at some Stanford hitters who should go high in the draft and notes some impressive velocity from around the country yesterday.
  • The Angels have hired former big leaguers Gary Varsho and Jeff Cirillo as scouts, tweets ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.
  • Rangers reliever Koji Uehara wants to get his situation settled and know where he's playing this season, writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.  Texas has been talking with clubs about a possible deal, including the Athletics.
  • The Indians are still working through details in their talks with Jon Garland, tweets Jordan Bastian of MLB.com.  The pitcher was originally set to undergo a physical on Monday but that now seems unlikely.
  • When asked about adding Roy Oswalt or anyone else, Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told reporters, "We're always open for business here," tweets Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com.
  • Dusty Baker only has one year remaining on his contract, but the Reds skipper says that he isn't concerned about it, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com.
  • Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner told Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter) that he hasn't heard from the team about a long-term contract yet.
  • Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) has the contract figures on two minor league signings from earlier this offseason.  Joel Pineiro will earn $1.5MM if he makes the big league roster with the Phillies while Ryan Spilborghs will receive a $1MM base salary if he's in the majors with the Indians.

Extension Candidate: Madison Bumgarner

The Matt Moore extension showed any young pitcher is a candidate for a multiyear extension, regardless of service time.  Once the Giants gain clarity on the situations of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, why not lock up Madison Bumgarner?

Bumgarner

Bumgarner, just 22, quietly became one of the ten best pitchers in the National League this year.  He posted a 3.21 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.53 HR/9, and 46% groundball rate in 204 2/3 innings.  It's possible the best is yet to come, as the lefty posted a 5.8 K/BB ratio over his final 23 starts.

Bumgarner is represented by SFX, the agency that ranks fourth in extensions since 2009 with seven.  Four of those were for starting pitchers Zack Greinke, Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Verlander, and Clay Buchholz.  The Giants have a GM in Brian Sabean who is open to extensions, so the biggest question may be whether Bumgarner prefers long-term security or maximum year-to-year earnings.  Bumgarner received a $2MM signing bonus as the tenth overall pick in 2007, so he already has some measure of financial security.

Bumgarner has one year and 127 days of Major League service.  Since January of 2008, four pitchers with at least one year of service but less than Bumgarner's 1.127 have signed multiyear extensions: James Shields, Jimenez, Brett Anderson, and Wade Davis.  All signed four-year deals worth $10-12.6MM.  The Rays' Davis and Shields each allowed for three club options, while Anderson and Jimenez have two.  A third Rays starter, Moore, merits a mention in that he signed for more money than any of them, getting a $14MM guarantee with just 17 days of service.  Moore's contract also includes three club options.    

It's easy to see that Bumgarner is more accomplished than Shields, Jimenez, Anderson, and Davis were at the time their extensions were signed.  Bumgarner has a 3.10 career ERA, while the others were all over 4.00.  Anderson and Shields had similar strikeout and walk rates, but Bumgarner hasn't been nearly as homer-prone.  Bumgarner has the most wins, at 20.  Only Shields tops Bumgarner's innings total, a small 14-inning advantage that swings to Bumgarner when postseason innings are included.

If the Giants don't get at least one of Bumgarner's free agent years, an extension probably isn't worth considering for them.  Unless the lefty's extension is to shatter precedents, he'll probably have to accept club options on his third arbitration year and first free agent season.  If I were Bumgarner's agent, I'd be aiming for at least $16MM on a four-year deal.  A big win would be to get his third arbitration year guaranteed, pushing the value to $23-24MM over five years.  That might seem pricey now, but another strong season will push the required guarantee past $30MM.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.