Teams with financial flexibility that feel they are close to contention often cast a wide net in as they search for offseason upgrades. The Phillies are casting a wide net and then some.
Earlier Monday, The Athletic‘s Jayson Stark reported that the Phillies had unsuccessful trade discussions with the Arizona Diamondbacks regarding six-time All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. There are few players in the league with accomplishments that can compare to that of Goldschmidt, but MLB.com‘s Jon Paul Morosi says the Phillies have inquired on one: former World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner:
Multiple sources indicated Monday that the Giants are willing to engage with other teams about the possibility of dealing their ace and three-time World Series champion. The Brewers and Phillies are among the teams that have had at least preliminary dialogue about trading for Bumgarner, sources say.
The preliminary dialogue that Morosi is referring to appears to be with the San Francisco Giants, rather than just Matt Klentak’s front-office internally weighing the possibility. Morosi also notes that the division rival Atlanta Braves – who had a busy Monday themselves – were unable to gain traction with the Giants when they reached out regarding Bumgarner earlier this offseason.
Bumgarner was overshadowed by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain when he helped the Giants to defeat the Phillies in the 2010 NLCS as a 20-year-old, though he’s gone on to have the most sustained success of the trio. Most notably, he turned in one of the most dominant postseason runs in baseball history in 2014, posting a 1.03 ERA and 0.65 WHIP in 52.2 innings. Bumgarner was ultimately named World Series MVP, as he helped the Giants to defeat the Kansas City Royals in a seven-game World Series, giving the franchise their third World Series title in a five-year span. In 102.1 career postseason innings, Bumgarner has developed a reputation as one of the best postseason pitchers the game has ever seen, posting a 2.11 ERA and pitching three complete games.
A three-time All-Star, Bumgarner can become a free-agent after the 2019 season. He’ll make an extremely team-friendly $12 million in 2019, though he’s likely to receive a hefty payday after next season. At his best, Bumgarner has been one of baseball’s 10 best starting pitchers. However, over the past two seasons, he’s been limited to just 240.2 innings. This comes after he pitched over 200 innings ever year from 2011 to 2016.
To be fair to Bumgarner, he hasn’t been limited over the past two seasons because of wear-and-tear injuries. He missed nearly three months in 2017 with a grade-two sprain in his throwing shoulder, which sounds like a red flag until you learn he sustained the injury not by pitching, but by riding his dirt bike. In 2018, he didn’t make his first start until early June, after he broke his pitching hand in a Spring Training game when a ball was lined off of him.
More concerning, as I outlined for SportsRadio 94 WIP earlier this offseason, is how Bumgarner has performed when he’s been healthy:
He hasn’t seen any notable velocity drop in the last two seasons – his average fastball velocity the past two seasons has been 91.4 miles-per-hour, as opposed to 91.7 miles-per-hour in 2016 – though he’s changed his approach as a pitcher. In 2018, Bumgarner used his fastball 34.2 percent of the time, down 14 percent since 2016. Meanwhile, his curveball usage increased to 22.2 percent in 2018, up nearly seven percent from 2017.
As he’s relied less on his fastball the past two seasons, Bumgarner has remained an effective pitcher when healthy, though the 3.1 combined fWAR he’s posted over the past two seasons feels underwhelming when you consider he averaged a 4.7 fWAR per season between 2014 and 2016.
Bumgarner is only 29 still, but he’s already thrown over 1,600 regular season innings, and that says nothing of his extended postseason workload. Like any trade, it would come down to the asking price in a trade. Morosi says that new Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi would like to acquire a “high-end pitching prospect” if he were to deal Bumgarner. If Zach Eflin entices the Giants, that’s one thing. But if it would take Sixto Sanchez or Adonis Medina – the Phillies top two pitching prospects – the Phillies may tread more carefully. Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, Dallas Keuchel and Japanese import Yusei Kikuchi are all left-handed pitching options the Phillies could sign this offseason without surrendering prospects.
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