With Major League Baseball’s Spring Training at an end and Opening Day of the 2019 MLB season on Thursday, several top pitchers who would have become free agents after this season opted instead to sign contract extensions with their current teams. But one did not, and as a result — according to ESPN baseball columnist Buster Olney — that pitcher is likely to become the most sought-after commodity on the 2019 trade market.
The pitcher is 29-year-old lefty Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, who before two injury-hampered seasons in 2017 and 2018, was the Giants’ ace for at least five seasons. Known especially for his postseason performance, in three World Series all won by the Giants, Bumgarner has allowed a microscopic 0.25 ERA, starting four games and winning all four — plus appearing in another game as a reliever and recording a save, according to Baseball Reference stats.
But according to Olney, once the 2019 season gets underway on Thursday — with Bumgarner on the mound in San Diego as the Giants face the Padres, per MLB.com — Bumgarner could be pitching his final games in a Giants uniform, after the team drafted him in the first round, 10th overall, in 2007, out of South Caldwell High School in North Carolina.
While aces Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox, Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros, and the New York Mets’ Jacob deGrom all inked contract extensions with their current teams, per MLB Trade Rumors, keeping them off the free agent market — and presumably the trade market as well — for the next several years, Bumgarner is showing “no indication” that he will strike an extension deal with the Giants any time this season, according to Olney.
With the Giants attempting to rebuild after two straight dismal, losing seasons, Bumgarner stands out as San Francisco’s most “marketable trade piece” Olney wrote on Wednesday.
“The Giants could flip Bumgarner for prospects and then have a separate conversation next fall about whether to pursue this legacy player as a free agent,” Olney wrote.
“That is the most efficient, bloodless decision for the organization.”
But Bumgarner is said to be a favorite not only of Giants’ fans but of Giants co-owner Charles Johnson, the finance-industry billionaire who generally leaves much of the team’s day-to-day ownership duties to the team’s president and CEO, Larry Baer. But Baer is now serving a three-month suspension imposed by Major League Baseball after a domestic violence incident in which he publicly appeared pushed his wife off of a chair, an incident captured on a viral cell phone video, as The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
As a result, Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi “might have to work through some emotional roadblocks within the Giants organization before executing a Bumgarner deal,” according to Olney.