John Harper, for SNY.tv | Twitter |
It would be incorrect to call the idea of the Yankees trading for Madison Bumgarner a pipe dream, considering the state of disrepair that currently defines the San Francisco Giants.
In fact, the immediate future of their organization is so bleak that team president, Larry Baer, has declared the need for new direction, starting with the ongoing search for a young, analytically savvy GM who can modernize the old-school front office.
And given the Giants' lack of young talent at the major or minor league level, coming off back-to-back horrendous seasons, it's not unreasonable to think the new GM would consider trading Bumgarner as a way of jump-starting a major rebuild.
So, pipe dream? No.
But that doesn't mean fans should get their hopes up either.
One thing for sure, the Yankees will be exhausting all possibilities in trying to upgrade their starting pitching this winter, and Bumgarner, the Mr. October of pitchers, is seen as more of a difference-maker than top free agents such as Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, or Charlie Morton.
So Brian Cashman surely will reach out to Brian Sabean, the one-time Yankee executive who is now a senior advisor for the Giants after building the championship teams of 2010, '12, and'14 as their GM -- in addition to whoever the team hires as the new primary decision-maker.
But even if Bumgarner is deemed available, the feeling of baseball people with insight into the Giants' situation is that a new GM would have to be blown away by a glitzy package of young talent.
"You can't underestimate the emotional pull of trading Bumgarner," was the way one person with ties to the Giants' organization put it. "The guy is a hero in the Bay Area for what he's done in the post-season, and ownership is very mindful of the fans who fill the ballpark every night.
"So even if trading him might be the right business decision, the new GM is going to have to get something that he can sell to ownership -- and the fans -- as too good to turn down. Really, it would have to be an overpay, if you add in that Bumgarner is a year away from free agency."
The Yankees still have the pieces to make such an offer, and after the disappointing ALDS loss to the Red Sox, you'd have to think Cashman would be more willing to sacrifice young talent than he was last winter when he wouldn't give up what the Pirates wanted for Gerrit Cole.
What would it take? If the person close to the situation is right, a package probably would have to include the likes of Miguel Andujar, Justus Sheffield, Estevan Florial, and another pitching prospect.
As a team that has officially moved into the win-now category, young as many of their players may be, the Yankees could justify such a deal, especially if they signed Manny Machado to take over for Andujar at third base for the long haul.
But there are mitigating factors that could discourage anything resembling an overpay.
First, while Bumgarner, who turns 30 next August, may be a bargain in 2019 with his $12 million salary, his looming free agency adds uncertainty to the situation, even if the Yankees would be more than happy to offer him a contract extension.
And then there's the question of whether Bumgarner is still the same guy who earned his reputation as the ultimate big-game pitcher -- he is 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA in 102 post-season innings, including his famous five-inning relief stint in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.
He hasn't been as dominant the last two seasons, perhaps in part due to injuries that cost him significant time.
The injuries were flukish, a spill on a motorbike that injured his ribs and throwing shoulder in 2017, then a broken bone in his pitching hand from a line drive last spring, and they aren't the type that should cause long-term concern.
Nevertheless, the lefthander's overall numbers weren't as dominant as he went 6-7 with a 3.26 ERA last season. His WHIP (1.232) was the highest since his rookie year, while his strikeout rate (7.6 per nine innings) was the lowest of his career, and his walk rate (3.0) was the highest -- and he didn't pitch as deep into games as in the past.
In addition, Bumgarner's fastball velocity has decreased each of the last two years, averaging 91.4 mph last season, down from the 93-94 range where he was a few years ago.
"It's something to watch," a National League scout said by phone. "He had a harder time putting guys away, and velocity is part of that. But he still has deception with that cross-fire delivery and his low arm angle, and his competitiveness is off the charts, so for me he's still one of the top starters in the game."
Would that be enough to convince Cashman to give up a major chunk of his farm system? Or would he decide it's smarter to sign someone like Corbin and hold onto his top prospects?
For the moment, the Yankees simply would love to have such a decision to make. It all depends on what the Giants decide -- or perhaps more precisely, who they hire as their new GM.