Madison Bumgarner strategically places Phillies on no-trade list

Madison Bumgarner figures to be tied to the Phillies for much of the summer. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

It only took until early April for the Madison Bumgarner-to-the-Philadelphia-Phillies hype train to reach a fever pitch, with Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reporting that Matt Klentak’s front-office had already been doing their due-diligence on the 29-year-old lefty.

That, along with an offseason report that the Phillies had engaged the Giants on the the four-time All-Star, wasn’t lost on Bumgarner.

Bumgarner, who can become a free-agent after the 2019 season, has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to block trades to eight teams. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic says that one of the teams on Bumgarner’s no-trade list for 2019 is the Phillies. The other seven teams that Bumgarner can block trades to, per Rosenthal, are the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals.

As you’ll notice, all eight of the teams on his no-trade list are potential playoff contenders. The goal of placing a team on a no-trade list usually isn’t to avoid being traded there. Normally, having the option of blocking a trade just gives a player leverage to make a contractual request before waiving his no-trade clause. In all likelihood, Bumgarner won’t be interested in negotiating a long-term deal before waiving his no-trade clause. But, the 2015 World Series MVP is currently making $12 million in 2019. Had he finished in the top three in National League Cy Young Award voting at any point between 2012 and 2017, the $12 million option that the Giants exercised for 2019 would have been worth $14 million. Perhaps before agreeing to waive his no-trade clause, Bumgarner will ask for a couple extra million to make up that deficit.

That’s not to say, however, that Bumgarner’s limited no-trade clause couldn’t be used to block a trade to a team he is less keen on going to. Cole Hamels, for example, used his no-trade clause to block a deal to the Houston Astros in 2015. The Astros would win one of the two American League Wild Card spots in 2015 and have dominated the American League since, but Hamels preferred to go to one of the eight teams that weren’t blocked as part of his no-trade clause. The Phillies, instead, traded Hamels to the Texas Rangers. Giancarlo Stanton blocked trades to the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals ahead of the 2018 season, before eventually being traded to the New York Yankees. He later said that he didn’t think that the Giants or Cardinals were ready to win. Speculation at the time was that Stanton, the 2017 National League MVP, was trying to force a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Los Angeles native ultimately couldn’t resist the allure of the Yankees, though.

So yes, the possibility does exist that Bumgarner would block a trade to teams like the Phillies or Cardinals, for example, knowing that if he isn’t traded to one of those two teams, it increases the chances he is dealt to a more established contender, such as the Yankees or Boston Red Sox. Ty Bradley of MLB Trade Rumors also reminds us that Bumgarner grew up as a fan of the Braves, so the idea of playing for the team he grew up rooting for could be especially appealing to him. The important thing to know is that the limited no-trade clause gives him some leverage in controlling where he ends up and how he is compensated if the Giants do indeed trade him.

In eight starts in 2019, Bumgarner is 2-4 with a 3.99 ERA and 3.50 FIP across 49.2 innings. It remains to be seen exactly how much teams value Bumgarner at this juncture, as he hasn’t pitched over 150 innings in a season since 2016.

A three-time World Series Champion, Bumgarner is considered one of the greatest postseason pitchers in baseball history. Bumgarner has three career postseason complete games and a 2.11 ERA in 102.1 career postseason innings.


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