Just because Madison Bumgarner is all but certain to be traded this summer, it doesn’t mean a reunion with the San Francisco Giants is out of the question.
Back in 2016, the New York Yankees pulled off one of the greatest heists in recent history, flipping a rental player for a huge haul, then re-signing him during the offseason. With the San Francisco Giants in a similar situation, can Farhan Zaidi pull off a similar coup?
If you’re not familiar with the trade we’re referring to here’s a refresher:
Aroldis Chapman, one of the most dominant closers in baseball, was acquired by the Yankees via trade prior to the 2016 season. He started the year as New York’s closer and racked up 20 saves in 21 chances with 12.6 K/9 during his time with the team that year.
However, with the Yankees were hovering around the .500 mark and the trade deadline approaching, general manager Brian Cashman decided to label his team as sellers. With the Fall Classic out of reach, Cashman set out to improve the team’s long-term outlook.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs were the best team in the National League and attempting to end their 108-year championship drought. They had a solid closer in Hector Rondon, but the rest of the bullpen was struggling. Ready and willing to go all-in on a move they thought might push them over the top, the Cubs set their sights on Chapman.
With free agency looming, the Cuban Missile was nothing more than a rental, but that didn’t deter the Cubs from meeting the Yankees’ lofty asking price. On July 25, the deal was done:
- New York Yankees trade LHP Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for RHP Adam Warren, SS Gleyber Torres, RF Billy McKinney and OF Rashad Crawford
The Cubs went on to win the World Series with Chapman playing a pivotal role before he departed in free agency during the subsequent offseason.
The Yankees interest in re-signing Chapman became immediately evident, and the hard-throwing lefty reciprocated, eventually leading to a five-year, $86 million deal that was the largest contract ever for a relief pitcher at the time.
The Cubs got their World Series, and they would likely make the Chapman deal all over again if given the chance, but they wound up paying a steep price.
Torres quickly emerged as one of the top prospects in baseball and he is now a budding star at the MLB level, finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year voting last season and hitting .285/.350/.548 with 19 home runs and 46 RBI so far this season.
In the end, all it cost the Yankees was two months of Chapman, before he returned to anchor the bullpen of a team that now looks poised for a World Series run. If they get there, Chapman and Torres will both play a major role.
That takes us to the San Francisco Giants current situation.
Who’s to say they can’t do the same thing with Madison Bumgarner?
The longtime ace is one of the hottest trade pieces on the market this summer with the Giants already out of contention and Bumgarner headed for free agency this coming offseason.
Starting pitchers have proven to be real difference makers for contending teams in the past. The Houston Astros addition of Justin Verlander in 2017 is the perfect example.
With that in mind, teams should be lining up in order to add the 2014 World Series MVP to their rotation, even with his rental status taken into account.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported earlier this month that the Yankees are interested in Bumgarner, but might not be “enamored enough” to “pay the necessary price” in terms of the return package. They are likely not alone in that mindset.
However, all it takes is one contender with a desperate desire to win and the prospect capital to make a huge offer.
It’s starting to seem like the Minnesota Twins might fit the bill.
Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff will likely be off-limits in Bumgarner talks, but the Twins have plenty of other top-tier talents. Brusdar Graterol, Trevor Larnach, and Jordan Balazovic are also currently part of MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospect list.
Anyone from that group would be a great addition to the San Francisco farm system, and if the Twins are truly looking to make a splash this year, big moves will have to be made at the trade deadline.
While they’re not facing a 108-year drought, the Twins have not won the World Series since 1991, so they should be properly motivated to seize the moment.
However, in order to replicate the Chapman trade, the Giants will also need to re-sign Bumgarner this offseason, which is the more difficult step in the process.
In a recent interview with ESPN’s Rick Sutcliffe, Bumgarner was asked about being mentioned in trade talks and responded: “I do my best to ignore all that and eliminate it, but it’s a real situation that we’re in.”
Sutcliffe then went on to say later in the game he was commentating that night, that it seems Bumgarner really wants to be in San Francisco while mentioning that it’s “all he’s ever known” in his pro career.
One hurdle in the San Francisco Giants potential pursuit of a potential reunion with Bumgarner is the impending retirement of manager Bruce Bochy, who he classified as one of his “best friends” in the aforementioned interview.
Nevertheless, the Giants have a history of rewarding players for what they have done in the past with massive contracts, and Bumgarner has done as much as anyone in recent franchise history.
Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval have both been on the team since Bumgarner’s rookie year. Others like Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford haven’t been around quite as long, but long enough to also build a strong relationship with the southpaw.
From the San Francisco Giants front office perspective, there are multiple reasons to consider re-signing Bumgarner:
- He would rejoin a healthy Johnny Cueto for 2020 to create a great one-two punch atop their starting rotation.
- He has stated before, via Curtis Pashelka of the Mercury News, that his “family is set forever,” so money will not necessarily be a motivating factor. That bodes well for a team looking to lower its payroll.
- He will be just 30 years old at the beginning of the 2020 season, making it possible to envision him being a contributor for the next contending Giants team if they can turn things around in the next few years.
While there are a lot of things that have to go right in order for the Giants to this all off, some of the pieces are already falling into place.
The Giants have a loyal player that will require a valuable crop of prospects to be moved. They may have found a desperate win-now team that has a talent farm system at its disposal. If Farhan Zaidi can get the same message across to Bumgarner that Cashman did Chapman, it may just happen.
If Madison Bumgarner truly wants to stay with the San Francisco Giants, he will have the opportunity this offseason, regardless of what happens at the trade deadline.