DEC. 10: It’s looking increasingly probable that Bumgarner will either reach or approach his $100MM-plus goal, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. “Many teams” are in the race, per Heyman, who tweets that the Twins “are thought to be” heavily in pursuit.
DEC. 9, 5:11pm: The Giants, Bumgarner’s lone team to date, are among his suitors and will meet with his representation this week, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. “We’re involved in those discussions,” Zaidi said. “We’re planning to meet with his representatives this week and they have other meetings scheduled, too. That’s what happens when a player is a free agent, they’re going to explore all their options. Guys are looking for different things, looking for maybe a particular geography, maybe a team in a specific part of their competitive cycle.” Interestingly, although they’re not known for their spending, the division-rival Diamondbacks are also in the mix, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. The Angels are also part of it, though whether they’re aggressive in pursuing Bumgarner could depend on if they land Gerrit Cole.
10:46am: Representatives of southpaw Madison Bumgarner have informed interested organizations that he’s looking to top nine figures over five years with his first free agent contract, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. Whether he’ll get there remains to be seen.
Zack Wheeler just blew past the $100M mark, but MLBTR predicted he’d substantially out-earn Bumgarner. While Bumgarner has unquestionably accomplished more in his career to date, the younger Wheeler seems on the upswing. We predicted Bumgarner would land at four years and $72MM, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him approach or even reach the $100MM level if interest soars to five years.
The question facing MLB teams is whether they believe Bumgarner can sustain his excellent results despite less-than-exceptional peripheral numbers. He doesn’t throw as hard as he did in his heyday, but Bumgarner’s velocity has stabilized in the 91 to 92 mph range. He got swings and misses as often as ever in the just-completed campaign after experiencing a somewhat worrisome 2018 downturn. But Bumgarner hasn’t drawn quite as many strikeouts and hasn’t limited the long ball as successfully as he once did, leading ERA estimators to dim on his value.
Bumgarner stands as an interesting market bellwether. Teams won’t pay for his past performance; those days are over. But will they put a big dollar value on his still-significant anticipated future contributions? And will his history of stepping up in the postseason help his cause? Bumgarner is still just thirty years of age and got back to his 200-inning ways in 2019. And even the post-injury version of the lefty still hasn’t finished a season having allowed four earned runs per nine innings.
There are a variety of teams with interest, though to what level isn’t yet evident. The Twins, White Sox, and Reds have been linked clearly to Bumgarner, while the Reds, Cardinals, and Yankees have also been cited as possibilities. It’ll cost the winning bidder draft compensation to add Bumgarner, which could temper the willingness to add yet more dollars and/or years to an offer.