Washington Nationals ace righty Stephen Strasburg is now a free agent, after spending the first 10 years of his career with the team. But while the team is reportedly interested in bringing the 31-year-old back into the fold, they are also eyeing contingency plans in case Strasburg — the 2019 World Series MVP — signs for another club. Chief among those backup options is his fellow free agent, former San Francisco Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner, according to Larry Brown Sports.
Like Strasburg with the Nationals, Bumgarner has spent his entire career with the Giants. But the last three seasons of his 11 years in San Francisco have seen the now 29-year-old Hickory, North Carolina, native struggle badly.
Prior to 2017, Bumgarner was an All-Star four years running. He has pitched in three World Series for the Giants, starting four games and winning them all, with a microscopic 0.25 ERA. The Giants won all three of those World Series, in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
Larry Brown Sports columnist Darryn Albert wrote on Monday that it remained “unclear” whether the Nationals were looking on Bumgarner as a backup plan “in the event Strasburg walks.” But he added that the workhorse starter, who led the National League in games started this year with 34, “would be a solid addition regardless as a lefty arm to complement a righty-heavy rotation.”
But Bumgarner may be more interested in playing for the Atlanta Braves, “the team closest to his North Carolina home,” according to an NBC Bay Area Sports report.
The interest appears to be mutual, according to NBC Sports writer Alex Pavlovic. The Braves were “sniffing around” at the July trade deadline, with an eye to trading for Bumgarner. Now that the season is over and Bumgarner has entered free agency, Atlanta is expected to be the first team to call Bumgarner, according to Pavlovic.
The Nationals are also reportedly attempting to hang on to Strasburg, who opted out of his contract on Saturday, just hours after the Nationals celebrated their World Series victory with a parade through Washington, D.C. Strasburg ditched his contract with four years — and $100 million — remaining. Whether the Nationals will be prepared to meet what could be a record price for a free agent hurler in order to keep Strasburg is also uncertain.
Bumgarner has won just 19 games while losing 26 over the past three seasons. As a result, chances are the lefty will be available at a far lower price than Strasburg. Bumgarner in 2019 finished an eight-year contract valued at $56.08 million, or about $7.26 million per season, according to Baseball-Reference. That’s a bargain-basement price by today’s standards for star pitchers, and far less than what Strasburg would likely cost the Nationals.