With the 2019/2020 Major League Baseball offseason’s top two free-agent pitchers now off the market, after Gerrit Cole signed a record-smashing nine-year, $324 million deal with the New York Yankees, the focus now shifts to the second-tier pair of hurlers.
And according to a report via Twitter by veteran MLB Network baseball “insider” Jon Heyman, the San Diego Padres have their sights set on one or both.
Longtime San Francisco Giants lefty ace Madison Bumgarner appears highly unlikely to return to the Bay Area after 11 seasons. During his Giants career, Bumgarner — the team’s first-round draft pick in 2007 out of South Caldwell High School in North Carolina — won 119 games while losing 92. But he is best remembered for his gutsy postseason performances, winning all four World Series games he started for the Giants, in three Fall Classics, according to Baseball Reference.
The Padres, according to Heyman, are now taking a “close look” at Bumgarner, a workhorse who led the National League with 34 games started last season, though he finished with only a 9-9 record and 3.90 ERA, the highest of his career.
Though in 2019 San Diego finished 70-92 in the last place in the NL West, the club is “building a team to win in 2020,” Heyman wrote. But he also reported that the Padres are taking a hard look at another top lefty free agent — Dallas Keuchel, who pitched in 2019 for the Atlanta Braves on a one-year deal.
The Padres are in the market for a left-handed starter, Heyman wrote, because they have established a strong defensive infield on the left side. The Southern California club has last offseason’s major free agent signing Manny Machado — who inked a 10-year, $300 million pact — at third base, and last season’s third place Rookie of the Year vote-getter Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop.
But MLB Trade Rumors scribe Jeff Todd expressed skepticism that the Padres could find room for another pitcher.
The team’s trade for former Milwaukee Brewers righty Zach Davies gives the Friars starting mound corps a “solid-looking five-man unit on hand that mixes stability and upside.” If the Padres were able to sign Bumgarner or Keuchel, another trade of one of the team’s current starters appears inevitable, Todd wrote.
After the hefty signing of Machado, which followed the eight-year, $144 million free agent signing of first baseman Eric Hosmer before the 2018 season, the Padres face “questions about how much more they could spend,” according to Todd.
Keuchel is coming off a $13 million, one-off deal with the Braves and would certainly be looking for a raise, along with a longer-term commitment. Bumgarner made $12 million in the final year of his Giants contract, and would also likely expect a contract that, at age 30, would allow him to finish his career with the team that signs him.