Madison Bumgarner cemented his place as an all-time postseason pitcher in October 2014. He secured the Giants' third title in five years by delivering five shutout innings on two days of rest in World Series Game 7, crafting a legend that will forever stick to him.
Now, five seasons later, San Francisco has fallen far from the team it was in the first half of the decade. It’s likely one of the franchise’s best-ever pitchers will finish the 2019 campaign in another uniform. In nine starts this season, Bumgarner is 2-4 with a 4.04 ERA.
Although we’ve known for some time the Giants could swap Bumgarner for prospects as they start rebuilding in the final season of his contract, that notion became somewhat less abstract this weekend when The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported the eight teams Bumgarner included on his no-trade list. Bumgarner can reject a deal to nearly every contender in the league: Braves, Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals.
It’s worth noting Bumgarner decided on these teams not because he doesn’t want to play for them, but because he wants to have more say in where the Giants trade him. All eight contenders are likely (or likelier than other teams) to make an offer to the Giants, forcing the team to turn to Bumgarner to see which team(s) he may waive his no-trade rights for. The Dodgers and Padres are both missing from Bumgarner's list, likely because he knows the Giants would be wary to trade him within the NL West.
With the third week of May beginning and small sample sizes turning into larger bodies of work, let’s take a look at how well Bumgarner would fit with each of these eight teams, listed from worst to best fit. Of course, the teams of best fit could (and probably will) change the longer he stays in San Francisco.
8. Yankees (24-16, Second Place in AL East, 0.5 GB)
At first glance, the Yankees seem like a decent fit for Bumgarner considering all their injuries and his postseason pedigree. However, at the moment, the Yankees don’t badly need Bumgarner. Offseason acquisitions James Paxton and J.A. Happ (re-signed) have both responded well after struggling early on. Paxton is currently on the injured list but isn’t expected to miss much time.
The injury to ace Luis Severino is more serious—and his status is much more uncertain—after he suffered an additional injury, a Grade 2 lat strain, while rehabbing from right rotator cuff inflammation. But his replacement in the rotation, Domingo German, has been electrifying this season, posting a 7-1 record with a 2.70 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP over eight games (seven starts).
Masahiro Tanaka was fantastic Sunday against the first-place Rays and has been among the Yankees’ most reliable big-game pitchers. And veteran lefthander CC Sabathia is again proving to be a valuable part of their rotation this late in his career.
Simply put, as it stands right now, the Yankees don’t need Bumgarner. That doesn't mean they wouldn't want him come October.
7. Cubs (24-14, First Place in NL Central)
The Cubs are no strangers to mid-season pitching acquisitions. They traded for closer Aroldis Chapman in 2016 and brought in quality lefthanders Jose Quintana (2017) and Cole Hamels (2018) over the last two seasons.
Given their recent track record and what’s expected to be a tight NL Central race, the Cubs could make a deal for another pitcher before the trade deadline. However, the top four pitchers in their rotation have been as good as any in baseball. And with recurring injuries over the last two years to Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop, the Cubs will probably look to address their bullpen before adding another starter.
6. Cardinals (22-19, Third Place in NL Central, 3.5 GB)
The Cardinals’ rotation has been underwhelming so far this season. Righthander Miles Mikolas is the only starter with an ERA under four, while both Jack Flaherty (3-3, 4.32 ERA) and Michael Wacha (3-0, 5.35 ERA) have been especially disappointing.
However, Flaherty’s stuff is nasty and he should turn it around relatively soon. Other than two dreadful starts against the Brewers, Dakota Hudson has actually pitched pretty well. In his seven other games, Hudson has posted a 3.27 ERA over 33 innings. Plus, the Cardinals have a number of highly regarded pitchers in the minors who could provide help to their rotation if needed.
5. Red Sox (22-19, Third Place in AL East, 3.0 GB)
The Red Sox have been rolling after their awful start to the season. Recently, Chris Sale has looked more like the elite starting pitcher he’s been throughout his career, and Rick Porcello is 3-0 with a 3.06 ERA in his last five starts following a rocky start to 2019. David Price is currently on the injured list with left elbow tendinitis, but he could be back sometime this week.
The concern in the Red Sox rotation is Nathan Eovaldi, who is recovering from arthroscopic surgery in his right elbow. He needed two months to return from a similar procedure he had last season while pitching for the Rays. He made a full recovery and was traded to the Red Sox and helped pitch them to a World Series title. They expect Eovaldi to be fine when he returns to the rotation, but there’s no guaranteeing that, especially considering his history of significant injuries.
Still, the Red Sox don’t really have much to trade the Giants for Bumgarner. Coming into the 2019 season, Michael Chavis was the only Red Sox minor leaguer included on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list. Chavis is now in the majors and likely will remain with the Red Sox as Boston chases another title.
4. Phillies (23-16, First Place in NL East)
Somehow, the Phillies’ worst starting pitcher has been Aaron Nola (unless you include Nick Pivetta, who's now in Triple A after posting a 8.35 ERA in four starts). Zach Eflin is 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP, while Jerad Eickhoff has a 1.50 ERA in five games (four starts).
Still, other than Jake Arrieta, nobody in the Phillies' rotation has postseason experience. Bringing in Bumgarner for a stretch run would make a lot of sense, especially if some of the younger Phillies starters fatigue or regress.
3. Astros (26-15, First Place in AL West)
There’s something intriguing about the idea of Bumgarner with the Astros. Their organization is far and away the best at developing young pitchers and reviving veterans. They did it with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, two of the game’s best starters. Bumgarner isn’t the same pitcher he was earlier in his career, but he’s only 29 and should still have plenty of bullets in his left arm. If ever there was a team to return him to the ace he was years ago, it’s Houston.
Also, even though the Astros don’t necessarily need help in their rotation, they are lacking a dependable lefthanded starter after they decided not to re-sign Dallas Keuchel this offseason. Bumgarner could give them the same (or better) production that Keuchel would with less long-term commitment.
2. Brewers (24-18, Second Place in NL Central, 2.0 GB)
Starting pitching is the Brewers’ greatest weakness this season, even after bringing back Gio Gonzalez weeks ago. Zach Davies has been exceptional (4-0 with a 1.54 ERA), but nobody else in the Milwaukee rotation is dependable.
The Brewers’ bullpen is fantastic, with Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Junior Guerra, but without a decent starting rotation their relievers are going to get worn down as the season goes on. Bumgarner would be a great fit for a rotation that lacks starters who go deep into games. It's not crazy to envision the lefthander having a similar role and effect with the Brewers that Sabathia did when they got him from Cleveland midway through the 2008 season.
1. Braves (21-20, Second Place in NL East, 3.0 GB)
With so much talent in their lineup and so many exciting young players, it’d be a shame to see the Braves miss the playoffs because they failed to address their pitching woes. Both Mike Soroka and Max Fried have been fantastic, but the Braves shouldn't expect the youngsters to carry the rotation for an entire season. Julio Teheran, Kevin Gausman and Mike Foltynewicz have been solid but inconsistent.
Trading for Bumgarner would stabilize the rotation and could help decide the NL East. Plus, a veteran like Bumgarner could be a great influence on the 21-year-old Soroka and 25-year-old lefty Fried.