The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t acquired a notable starting pitcher at the July 31 trade deadline since landing Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros in July of 2010. The Astros were still in the National League at that time, and Michael Bourn, Brett Myers and Hunter Pence led their team in bWAR. It’s been a minute.
By all accounts, though, general manager Matt Klentak and the Phillies plan to be active on the starting pitching market this summer. The organization has apparently been keeping tabs on two notable starters: Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke and San Francisco Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today appeared on The Doug and Wolf Show on 98.7 Arizona Sports Thursday and said the Phillies had scouts at Tuesday’s Diamondbacks-San Diego Padres game when Greinke allowed three runs in seven innings. In total, Greinke – who recently avoided a scare after leaving his May 15 start with abdominal pain – is 6-2 with a 2.89 ERA, 3.22 FIP and 1.6 fWAR. Considering his average fastball velocity in 2019 has been just 89.6 mph, he’s aged brilliantly, thanks in part to the fact that he’s used eight different pitches in 2019.
At the same time, Greinke, 35, is owed $70 million over the next two seasons. On top of that, the six-year/$206.5 million deal he signed with the Diamondbacks ahead of the 2016 season includes $62.5 million deferred that will be paid between 2022 and 2026. It may be difficult for the Diamondbacks to get proper value for Greinke, who is pitching his way into being a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate.
Meanwhile, Bumgarner has been consistently connected to the Phillies. The latest, per Nightengale, is that the Phillies, along with the New York Yankees, scouted Bumgarner last Saturday, when he, ironically, was pitching against the Diamondbacks. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB.com has kept tabs on this story, noting that the Phillies checked in on Bumgarner’s availability last offseason and even scouted him in Spring Training.
In theory, a trade of Bumgarner, who can become a free-agent after the season, should be easier than one of Greinke. But there are quite a few moving parts in Bumgarner’s case as well.
While Greinke is 35, he’s still pitching at an elite level. Bumgarner is 29, but he was limited to 38 starts between 2017 and 2018, and is pitching well in 2019, but not at an elite level. In 11 starts in 2019, Bumgarner is 3-4 with a 4.10 ERA, 3.60 FIP and 1.0 fWAR. He’s not the same pitcher that went 18-9 with a 2.93 ERA, 2.87 FIP and a 5.0 fWAR in 2015 before pitching the Giants to the World Series title.
Certainly, Bumgarner would improve the Phillies starting rotation as they look to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011. But he’s a franchise icon in San Francisco and can become a free-agent after the season – it remains to be seen if the Giants will have a realistic asking price for the four-time All-Star.
Jon Heyman suggested on the Big Time Baseball Podcast that at this juncture, he doesn’t believe either Greinke or Bumgarner will ultimately be traded this summer. The feeling here is that Bumgarner ultimately will be traded, but the uncertainty about the two means the Phillies will likely cast a wide net in their search for another front-line starter. Diamondbacks LHP Robbie Ray, Texas Rangers LHP Mike Minor and Toronto Blue Jays RHP Marcus Stroman are among the other names that the Phillies have been connected to that could be available this summer.
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