It’s fair to say Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner and Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler are the two best soon-to-be free-agent starters who could realistically change teams before the July 31 trade deadline. Neither the Giants nor Mets are in contention, and there haven’t been any rumors about extension talks between the teams and the hurlers. Furthermore, both clubs’ farm systems are lacking, so trading Bumgarner and Wheeler could help the organizations better themselves in that area. The question is: Who’s the more desirable of the pair?
The more impressive track record belongs to Bumgarner, who will turn 30 the day after the deadline. He’s a three-time World Series champion and one of the most successful postseason pitchers in recent memory, which could matter to starter-needy clubs that have their sights set on fall baseball. Bumgarner owns a phenomenal 2.11 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 102 1/3 playoff innings, though he hasn’t pitched that deep into the season since 2016. More recently, Bumgarner has morphed into a mid-rotation starter, no longer the front-line stalwart he was when he was helping the Giants to championships.
This season, Bumgarner has pitched to a 4.02 ERA/3.96 FIP with a 35.8 percent groundball rate over 109 2/3 innings, and has seen hitters put up a .332 expected weighted on-base average against his offerings versus a .311 real wOBA. Those are respectable numbers, but they’re not those of a rotation savior. At the same time, though, Bumgarner has produced a K/BB ratio befitting of an ace. With 9.27 K/9 against 1.97 BB/9, he stands 17th in the majors in K/BB ratio (4.71). The fact that Bumgarner has recorded career-best chase and first-pitch strike rates has helped him in that regard.
Wheeler’s also 29, yet he doesn’t have a single inning of playoff experience. Still, there’s a case to be made that he’s a better asset than Bumgarner. This much is clear: On a $5.975MM salary against Bumgarner’s $12MM, Wheeler is noticeably less expensive. And while Bumgarner’s not going to intimidate anyone with his low-90s velocity, Wheeler attacks hitters with one of the hardest fastballs in the game – a pitch that averages upward of 97.2 mph. Wheeler has used his velo to register 9.71 K/9 versus 2.53 BB/9 this year, yet he hasn’t had an easy time preventing runs. Wheeler’s ERA is at a lofty 4.42 through 114 frames, but his FIP’s a much more encouraging 3.63, and he has induced grounders at roughly a 45 percent clip. He’s also outdoing Bumgarner in the wOBA/xwOBA department (.295/.302).
Undoubtedly, Bumgarner or Wheeler is a question playoff-caliber teams seeking starters have asked themselves in recent weeks, and it’s one they’ll continue debating leading up to the deadline. With both pitchers likely on the move in the next four weeks, they may end up having a large amount of say in this year’s playoff race and perhaps the postseason itself. Which of the two would you rather have?
(Poll link for app users)
Wheeler has been inconsistent his whole career. Bumgarner looks like he’s finally figuring things out this season.
bum is prob the better rental but i wouldnt say he is figuring things out just yet. its gonna take more than a couple good starts in a row to convince me, as he has already done that this season a few times just to have it followed by more horrendous starts
He’s had one horrendous start against the Dodgers, and some weak hit balls falling in for hits. He may not be as good as 3 years ago but velo is the same and he’s moving the ball around a little more. I bet if he finds himself on a postseason team, he’ll bring that fury back on the mound.
You think Bum’s figuring it out? Why? Because he managed back to back good outings has last two?
I bet some Giants fans have just been waiting for Bumgarner to do that just so you guys can say he’s turning it around. Oh but make sure not to go back three games because THAT one was a turd.
Yeah, those sneaky Giants fans, just waiting for their best pitcher to have good starts…fiends!
I’d take the better postseason pitcher. Bumgarner is the GOAT in the big games and I think that is more important.
Agree Sherlock. Personally, I’d stay away from both at the expected price. Teams today see Verlander and Eovaldi’s recent success. MB’s history is amazing but while he’s been good, it’s been five years since he pitched lights out in the playoffs. As for Eovaldi, Boston didn’t overpay.
If you want to win a championship, Bum.
If you want to lose and be cheap, Wheeler.
The Braves rather be the latter and be farm system champs.
That made me laugh AllOurGods. So many people get caught up with farm system rankings, when a lot of the top rated prospects in all of MLB end up being a huge bust. People who are down on Bumgarner clearly haven’t watched him pitch this year. I don’t see any diminishment in stuff, and he has more fire than anyone in the league.
madbum is clearly better, but SF will still ask for a king’s ransom for a guy who would be, at best, a 3 on a contending team.
You see the problem, DS830, most people expect #40 to be your #1. If you look at his early career and most of his postseason, he was mostly your #3 guy. With Cueto coming back, Bedee finally putting it together – why not get Zack Wheeler and fill out a solid starting five. That would work out well I presume.
I think Bumgarner is towards the tail end of his career… or at least the portion of it where he’s a front of the rotation type arm. I just don’t see him being more than an okay #3 or really solid #4 in the AL (if traded there) whereas Wheeler kind of reminds me of Eovaldi last year. Sure he’s had ups and downs but his stuff is electric and maybe a change of scenery and a pennant race could be just what he needs to find that next gear and really step up for a contender. Honestly though – I don’t really see either as a surefire thing for a team needing anything close to an “ace”
You, my friend, have not seen him pitch enough lately then. He is still one hundred percent an effective pitcher that will control a game when given an early lead to work with. He keeps you in a game less than four runs, consistently.
Doesn’t look like his stats are saying that. Unless of course when you say “haven’t seen him pitch enough lately” you mean his last two starts. Just make sure not to look at his last THREE starts. Might dampen your enthusiasm.
Although it isn’t a “pitching” stat, Bumgarner’s prowess as a hitter swings the scale if you are a NL team (in my opinion).
He’s a career. 180/.228/.307 hitter, and has been worse than that over the last couple of years. His hitting “prowess” is more narrative than reality – it barely moves the needle.
Wheeler ain’t bad with the bat either.
Have you heard Wheeler’s hitting over 300, leading all pitchers in hits, but not with Bum’s power.
Bumgarner hands down. Wheeler is inconsistent, and hasn’t pitched but a couple of full seasons due to injuries. If you want a ring definitely Madbum
Bum. If the Giants FO hadn’t traded Wheeler for a couple useless months of Beltran, they could be making a serious haul for both.
Bumgarner’s postseason reputation was built when he had better stuff. It’s his walk year so he has plenty of motivation to put up big numbers. Yet he has been average at best. He doesn’t have it anymore.
Finally someone who isn’t stupid.
bUt DiD U sEE wHaT hE diD iN ThE pOsTSeAsOn ((((years ago))))??!?!!?!
someone call beltran i heard he was a good postseason hitter he must still be
So people with a different opinion then you on Bumgarner are stupid! Laughable! I could say, that because he isn’t playing for a postseason team he might not care as much and when he smells an opportunity to win a ring the Bum shows up. Is that stupid too? Cmon man, you don’t know. If you haven’t watched him this year every outing then don’t speak, the dude is on target, stuck out 11 Dodgers and that’s a team that sees him more then anyone. If the twins grab him I bet the AL has a hard time seeing him
Ok, Rathipon. That won’t stop me from picking Bumgarner over Wheeler to start in game 7 of the WS if I had the two options.
But which one will help you get there?
I’m surprised this is even a question. Bum > Wheeler
Bumgarger has a higher floor, Wheeler a higher ceiling. Both will benefit moving onto better teams Wheeler will benefit from a more solid defense behind him.
Salaries where brought up in the article however certainly in the case of the SFG they will undoubtedly pay down all of Bum’s remaining salary to up their return, with NYM (the Wilpons) I’m not sure you can say that with certainty. It’s an x factor to consider vs looking at them in a vacuum.
SFG have a lot of bullpen pieces, unlikely Will Smith is put in a deal with Bumgarner but Watson or Dyson, I think that has a real possibility especially if it changes the depth or headliner of the return.
I guess everyone will find out in 2-3 weeks.
EDIT, Stroman is day to day with pec issue. A thin SP market maybe just got a little thinner.
All these negative comments about Mad Bum are so reminiscent of the comments made about Verlander a few years back it’s crazy.
Exactly lol. This is his full season back from being injured not from throwing, but dirt bike and Ball back at him . He’s had a couple bad starts this year other than that pencil him in for a quality start 90% of the time with a k per 9 to go along with it.. he’s starting to mix in his curveball now and Change-Up so expect better starts moving forward this year. I’ll be very surprised if his era is higher than 3.30 and don’t have atleast 200ks by the end of the season.
I’d rather the Mets try and resign Wheeler.
Show Me Your Tatis
Trading him won’t preclude them from doing that.
Bum is traded before 7/31 and resigns with SF next year…… he has made it very clear that he does not want to leave
The discount he’d have to give SF would suggest otherwise.
People must be down on Bumgarner for Zack Wheeler to have received anything over 10% of the votes. Wheeler is a non-discussion.
East Coast bias, like ESPN lol
Another smart person who laughs at any of the ESPN b.s…….it is the CNN of sports
Well played. Very funny. Azcrook is right; ESPN is the CNN of sports, and that is far from a compliment.
How is CNN sports anything like that?
How are we to decipher what you just asked?
I would rather have wheeler if the price is similar. Bumgarner has a postseason track record which may drive up the price but I don’t think it’s smart to put too much stock in ~100 postseason innings especially considering his recent performance suggests that he’s declined in the past few years. Wheeler’s numbers hint that he could perform much better given a new defense and coaching approach
As a Braves fan, hoping for Wheeler to close games in Atlanta for next ten years.
Metsies are LOOOSERS. Dont take anyone from them if you hope to win.
We’ve seen this story before. Analytical nerds will pick the younger, newer option that has all the flashy stats like K/9 and swing/miss%. True baseball fans will realize that we have seen this story before. This same arguement could have been made when comparing Cole Hamels and Chris Archer, the two biggest SP on the trade market last year. It could have been the same with Verlander in 2017, etc. In most if not all cases, the proven veteran SP with the lower ERA always turns out to be the better acquisition. Picking Wheeler over Bumgarner is foolish.
CONNOR! Great article my man. Really a troubling comparison for the two. I honestly don’t wanna see bumz go, but it may be for the greater good in the long haul.
Madbum had one insane playoff run in 2014 and is a 3 now. Wheeler can be a number 1 in spurts. Wheeler also has 1200 less innings and will cost less in prospects.
Chris Archer was referred to as a number 1 “at times”. That trade worked out well. Consistency is what you want to trade for.
Wheeler’s arm is two years younger. I’d say his era is directly related to pitch calling and a really bad bullpen allowing all inherited runners to score. He’s throwing the ball really well. Look to the A’s and their deep minor league system and package Frazier who can Dh with Lugo/Gsellman.
Wheeler is inconsistent, and can’t stay healthy. The only unhealthy stretch BUM had was due to physical injury (bike accident and comebacker). Wheeler won’t age well.
Mets fans are a screwy lot indeed, ready to breakup the band halfway through the season.
I’d obviously want Bumgarner more if I were a contending team. I think Wheeler has a better chance to provide value for what you’d need to give up though. I can’t see the Giants selling low on Bumgarner, even in his down stretch.
It’s likely the Giants package Bum with Will Smith. If it gets to that point, then it would truly be worth it to give up a couple top 100 guys as you’d be getting a shutdown closer and reliable innings eater that you can rely on for a quality start and a passion to perform well in big games. I think in the end the team that acquires Bumgarner/Smith will be getting the most value and at that point it would be worth the prospects. I can see the Astros or Brewers doing this.
Bumgarner, Will Smith, Tony Watson to Boston.
Nunez, Rusney Castillo, Bobby Dalbac, Tanner Houck and Josh Taylor to SF.
Something like that….give or take a guy.
Why would the Giants take Nunez and Rusney Castillo?
Because they need another garbage OF and Nunez is just a salary offset. The real reason is because San Fran has a GM that’s about to show the world yet again why ex-A’s execs have no business running things.
Besides, take some young players and hope they stick. You need ‘em…
I guess it honestly depends on what team is inquiring. If you’re a team like the Astro’s and Dodgers who have a deeper staff in terms of how you line them up along with the ability to unlock/see certain things, you’re probably more intrigued by Wheeler, especially when we’ve seen how guys like this have been used in the playoffs, shortening games while also supplanting bullpens. That’s not to say either team will be in the race for them. And yes I know Bum has been clutch in years past in WS, but it’s not like you’re getting the vintage version. It’s more so a question mark. If you’re a team that’s shorter in the rotation you somewhat would target a more consistent version in Bum. It’s a flip for me to be honest.
I really think the Yanks are doing themselves a giant disservice, no pun intended, by not trying to get Bum. They need a pitcher who can eat innings and his last couple starts have shown who he used to be. And in all likely hood the Dodgers are going to be in the World Series and Bum has a lot of experience against that lineup to say the least
Why is this even a question? Bumgarner is the Greatest postseason pitcher of all time. He’s never been an elite regular season pitcher so his mediocre season isn’t really relevant.
He was elite until 2017
What are you waiting for Twins? Go get Bumgarner or Scherzer. Wheeler stinks he’s from the Mets.
Nats aren’t trading Max, besides haven’t you been watching them lately.
Just my prediction based on too much to list in short: I doubt either get traded this season. Madison Bumgarner will get traded in the off season. Zack Wheeler will be counted on for the next few seasons for the Mets.
Gary both are FA’s.
Without question MadBum is better. Being a rental rather than 2 or 3 year of control is gonna cost less.
Please take Wheeler. There isn’t another pitcher like Madison out there, and we don’t want him gone. He is old school fantastic, gritty, competitive and on fire whenever he gets the ball. He is a leader in the clubhouse and with the staff, and on the field. I can’t imagine the Giants and Buster without him. Just can’t. So please don’t give him his due, criticize, kick at him while he is working his way back off two injured seasons. He has never had a baseball injury himself. HBP and dirt bike incident. His health is solid, he will have a terrific 2019. I pray he stays and keeps helping his team, teaching rookie pitchers and being the wisdom and strength that he’s always been. #savemadbum
Ahhhh this a tough one pure stuff wheeler has it there but Bumgarner is like a wild card he’s either gonna thrive in a winning environment or fall really hard but who knows Thank goodness I ain’t a gm lol
Bumgarner is back in fine form. Cueto will return soon. I implore SFG to trade Crawford, Belt or whomever to NYM for Zack Wheeler. He was meant to be an SFG originally anyway. Let’s make it happen and go on another pitching run. – eh? Happy 4th – everyone!
Wish the Giants started playing this well a month ago. They would have considered hanging on to Smith and Bum. They will probably still trade them at this point even though they are starting to play well. I don’t think anyone wants Crawford. Bochy even has him sitting on the bench. lol
Interested to see what Bumgarner does with his partial no trade clause… could be a sticking point for teams listed.
Did he seriously try to say that Wheeler would intimidate hitters and Bumgarner wouldn’t? That is completely ridiculous. Major league hitters don’t get intimidated anyway, unless it is Randy Johnson throwing one over your head. Exactly what is wrong with baseball today; everyone is all about the radar gun. Newsflash, Bumgarner never threw gas, he succeeds on movement and location
Exactly… we all bought into the fodder of this article. At his “best” Bum was 92-93 MPH. He’s not the 22 year old Bum but still, I’ll take him in a money game until he proves otherwise. he Has some of the best numbers in postseason of all time you want him? Pony up!
Ok, ima bit buzzed shooting off fireworks and I probably shouldn’t have checked trade rumors but alas I did. That being said, I’ll take Bumgarner 6 times a week and twice on Sunday over just about everyone. This article is ludicrous, you want a 3x WS champion, a proven winnner, a championship pedigree or do you want Zach/Zack attack? No disrespect to Wheeler but come on…. I trust manalytics over analytics… Bum is the real deal, everyone else is a cheap knockoff
Is this a serious question? Madison Bumgarner hands down! WTF has Wheeler ever done in baseball never mind October?
Even in 2019, it’s October, and I have a must win game. I’m riding Madison Bumgarner. Big lights, big stage Madison Bumgarner. Not even f’in close.
Hoping the Nats trade for wheeler and make him a 8th inning guy. Half the price of Rosie.
They both suck eggs.
Bumgarner controls his destiny not Giants. Giants can work out a trade and he can block it to many teams. I think Bumgarner/Smith goes to Red Sox as Red Sox will give Bumgarner a 3 year extension which other teams won’t that is why it will be done.
Wheeler will be a Brave next year. Send him there now and get something back of value.
Bum is twice the pitcher.
Only this hack wannabe writer would publish this article. Check WS stats. Check numbers when healthy. This conner dude is a clown.
For the record, as the “clown” who wrote this piece, I’d take Bumgarner.
Who does this guy think he is, comparing Zack wheeler with the one and only MadBum!!!! The only reason that MadBum’s numbers aren’t that great is cause the giants defense is alright. But, if he went to a place like the twins, his ERA would go down. Bum is clearly the better chip in this article
Bumgarner is going to get traded, and when he does expect the same thing that happened to Verlander when he left a loosing team and went to a winning team, better environment full of energy and charisma. Bumgarners stuff is there, his velocity is there, his winning demeanor is there, plan on seeing great things from him when he gets traded.