The San Francisco Giants are on the precipice of change. They’ve hired Farhan Zaidi to be their new, high-powered GM. The contract of longtime manager Bruce Bochy expires at the end of the 2019 season. And now, according to Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the Giants may be considering trade offers for one of the crown jewels of their franchise: starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner.
It wouldn’t be the most popular move the Giants have ever made, and it wouldn’t win Zaidi a lot of fans. But it’s time for the Giants to consider their future and move out of win-now mode. If they don’t, it could take them a long time to get back to the top.
The Giants’ farm system needs help
A team doesn’t consider trading one of its best-ever pitchers without needing to. One look at the Giants farm system should tell you all you need to know, because it’s not great. It’s been consistently ranked in the lower third of all MLB teams for the past year-plus, and has a lack of highly rated impact prospects. Their farm system contains just one high-end pitching prospect.
This is where Bumgarner comes in. He alone won’t be able to fix the Giants’ issues, but he could help. He has just one year left on his contract with the Giants, which is worth $12 million. That’s a steal for one year of Bumgarner, even with him hitting free agency after the 2019 season. And though he wouldn’t command a massive prospect package, it would absolutely help the farm system.
Morosi reported that the Milwaukee Brewers and the Philadelphia Phillies are both interested, and while the Phillies have more prospects to deal, the Brewers nearly made it to the World Series this year. Both need pitchers, but the Brewers might be willing to give up more to bolster their rotation.
A Bumgarner trade isn’t a total no-brainer. He’s been in baseball for 10 years, and has spent a lot of time over the past two seasons on the disabled list. However, those DL stints were the result of freak injuries and not structural issues in his pitching arm. Those injuries haven’t hurt him much: he has a 3.29 ERA over 2017 and 2018, which is a run higher than peak Bumgarner, but still extremely productive. Plus, he’s just 29 with more left in the tank. Will he give a year of that to the Giants, who will likely be competing for fourth place in the National League West? Or to the Brewers or Phillies, who will be in highly competitive races at the top of their divisions? Only the Giants can decide.
The National League West has gotten very competitive
San Francisco’s farm system definitely needs a boost, but the biggest reason to start rebuilding is the state of the NL West. Over the last few years, it’s gone from a two-team race to three-to-four-team race. For one period in 2018, it was an all-out five-team melee, with every club in the division separated by just a few games.
That’s a result of long-term planning and smart baseball moves from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. They’re not just competing for a NL wild-card spot anymore, but they’re competing with the behemoth that is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their prospects have matured, been promoted and are now making a difference at the major league level. They’ve made trades and spent money. Their competitive windows are open, and it’s just the start.
The Giants know their competitive window is essentially closed. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be making major front office changes, or reportedly considering trading a franchise cornerstone. Their top-five payroll netted them just 73 wins, and their roster is old and getting older by the second. It’s just a matter of time before the Giants move fully into rebuild mode. Trading Bumgarner would be painful and difficult for fans, but the team has to start somewhere. And the sooner they start, the sooner the Giants could be back to their winning ways.