Reports have the Milwaukee Brewers in discussions with the San Francisco Giants for starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner. However, acquiring him would be a bad idea for the Crew.
It seems almost ironic how us Milwaukee Brewers fans have been clamoring for David Stearns to go out and acquire an ace starting pitcher to lead this rotation. But now that we’ve seen reports about the Brewers and Madison Bumgarner, many are feeling unsure about whether this is the right course of action.
A deal has not been completed yet, but there are plenty of reasons for alarm when it comes to Madison Bumgarner.
The Asking Price On Bumgarner
Reports yesterday indicated the Giants initially asked for one of Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, or Brandon Woodruff to make a trade possible. While there’s little belief that Brewers GM David Stearns would actually give up one of those pitchers, it shows a dangerous starting point.
The Giants are going to ask for the world in return for Bumgarner. It’s going to take more than what is probably Bumgarner’s real value in order to pry him away from San Francisco. And that should be cause enough for Stearns to pause.
If anything, wait until July to get Bumgarner. The Giants won’t be contending and will look to trade him then. That way, the Milwaukee Brewers will know how well MadBum is actually pitching, and the price will be lower because it’s only two months of Bumgarner instead of a whole season. They’ve still got a ridiculously high price right now.
Bumgarner is only due $12 million for 2019, which is a bargain for the level that he’s pitched at in the past. But 2019 is the final year of his contract, meaning he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year, and the Milwaukee Brewers, should they acquire him, have almost no chance of signing him to a long-term deal.
The Brewers have shown in the past that they’ve placed a priority on acquiring players with multiple years of control, and Bumgarner doesn’t fit that bill. What good is spending the prospects if he’s only going to be here for one year of the championship window.
Bumgarner is in decline
Don’t let his ERA fool you, Bumgarner is declining. To go with his 3.26 ERA, MadBum had a 4.32 xFIP. In 2017, Bumgarner had a 3.32 ERA but a 4.07 xFIP.
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Bumgarner started walking more hitters in 2018, with his BB/9 increasing from 1.6 in 2017 to 3.0 last year. His strikeouts went down as well, as his K/9 rate went from between 9.0 and 10.0 in 2014-16 down to 7.6 in 2018.
His swinging strike rate has steadily declined over the past four seasons. From a high of 20.4% swinging strikes in 2015 down to 15.8% last year, the MadBum is not as dominant as he once was.
In his prime, Bumgarner was the model of reliability, pitching more than 200 innings for six straight seasons from 2011-16. But the past two years, he’s only pitched 111 and 129.2 innings respectively. He’s missed time with injuries. The first injury was from a dirt bike accident mid-season that hurt his shoulder. Then, at the end of spring training in 2018 a comeback liner broke his pitching hand.
Also, Bumgarner has spent his entire career in AT&T Park, which is a very hitter friendly stadium. Coming to Miller Park, a hitter friendly environment, will only make his decline worse. Bumgarner allowed a 41.6% hard hit rate last season, the highest of his career. Pair that with his career 36.2% fly ball rate, and you have a recipe for disaster in Milwaukee.
With the cost of at least one top prospect, acquiring a declining pitcher like Bumgarner who will only be in town for one season, and it doesn’t even look like we can depend on it being the season we need, getting Madison Bumgarner would be a mistake.
It just seems off to me. The Giants don’t have their asking price set to what Bumgarner’s recent on the field value is, but what his name value is. The name is more intimidating than what he’s done lately, and paying for a name instead of what the numbers say doesn’t sound like a smart move and it doesn’t sound like something David Stearns would do.
If we’re looking at one year pitching trade targets, someone like Sonny Gray would be better merely for his lower acquisition cost and potential to have a bounceback season. It doesn’t look like Bumgarner is going to be bouncing back that much this year. Save the prospects for a mid-season acquisition when it’ll be more needed.