Nobody expected it, nobody could have even predicted anything quite like this. Yet, Madison Bumgarner, one of the best pitchers in 2010s’ MLB baseball, has signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who even are division rivals with his former team, the Giants.
The thing is, Arizona wasn’t really among the heavy favorites to get MadBum. There were other teams that were deeply engaged in negotiation talks with the 30-year-old starting pitcher, like the LA Dodgers. The value of his new contract, $85 million over 5 years, is also under the expected amount of $100 million that he and his representatives of VC Sports Group were said to have demanded.
That has, naturally, brought somewhat of a panic attack among the whole MLB free agent market. Some teams have changed their approach following Sunday night, some continue their old routes, but one thing’s for sure – this agreement brings chaos and has avid impact on both free agency and the trade market.
Let’s see what has changed with Madison Bumgarner going to the Dbacks:
The Dodgers are officially the biggest losers of free agency
The Dodgers went into the offseason being the favorites for not one but two big free agent stars – Anthony Rendon and, consequently, Madison Bumgarner. They failed at signing both of them, which now raises serious questions regarding what follows next. Their only big move thus far, Blake Treinen, fixes some of the holes in the bullpen, but it has become clear that the Dodgers can’t break the World Series spell without making a big move.
Last year, after winning two straight National League pennants, things went from good to bad quite quickly in the postseason. Their next step could be either re-singing Hyun-jin Ryu, despite him being rumoured to want to play elsewhere, or look for an extra bat from amongst the likes of Nicholas Castellanos, Kevin Pillar, etc.
Their rotation, even if they get their Korean starter back, doesn’t go deeper than Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Ryu, with the next in line being Kenta Maeda. LA missed a golden chance to be NL favourites like no other year in recent memory, even 2017.
Dallas Keuchel’s task becomes easier
With the Dodgers, and several other teams who were active in talks with Bumgarner, leaving empty-handed from the negotiation tables, Dallas Keuchel’s chances to get a substantial Major League contract have significantly increased.
Keuchel hasn’t been involved in anything more than ‘interest’ from a few teams after he didn’t have his best stuff in the half season he played with the Braves last year. There’s now a good chance he becomes the next SP to find his new team – teams have valued him more as the offseason has progressed and he was going to be a hot property for many middle-of-the-pack squads anyway once the calendar changed to 2020. Now his suitors have increased by a few disappointed clubs who missed out on MadBum.
The Diamondbacks become NL contenders?
The Diamondbacks are no longer average to good (at least on paper). Bumgarner joins Robbie Ray and Mike Leake, with Zac Gallen, Alex Young and Merrill Kelly fighting for the other two spots, in a promising Arizona staff.
Meanwhile, their lineup is just evidence of how well this organization has been run for some time now. Ketel Marte returns after posting .981 OPS during an incredible 2019 campaign, alongside the likes of Eduardo Escobar and Nick Ahmed as the team’s hitting core. If healthy, David Peralta will be looking for a rebound season and finding his 2015-2018 shape, when he batted .293 or more in three of four seasons.
This team has the potential to be competitive. Honestly, if the Dodgers don’t start improving what they already have, the Dbacks could very well overtake them. As experts within the business industry say: “You either get bigger or you fall down altogether.”
The Giants have entered rebuild mode but it won’t be the longest of rebuilds
The Giants weren’t in the best of positions to persuade Bumgarner to return to the Bay Area, but they, as his former organization and a team of which he’s an absolute legend, at least had that chance. They have, all offseason long, looked like they were going to strongly pass on this possibility, and that might be a sign of things to come.
If San Francisco was looking to enter a full rebuild, like the Orioles and the Royals did for instance, they would have traded MadBum in the summer to get something in return. General manager changes aren’t the biggest factor in this case – Farhan Zaidi still has power to overrule new GM Scott Harris as the President of Baseball Operations of the club.
It really looks more likely that the Giants are going to have a short rebuilding process. They’ve already made a couple of minor moves, signing Kevin Gausman and trading with the Angels for Zack Cozart, and what we’re witnessing may be just a different plan from Harris and Zaidi.
The Padres are in trouble
It’s fair to say that, in spite of the start they had, the Padres have not been very impressive so far on the market. They’ve missed out on most major starting pitching FAs after finishing in the bottom half in starters ERA.
They were considered to have engaged in the race for both Stephen Strasburg and Bumgarner. Now that they’ve lost both battles, what could the next move be? Is really one of Keuchel or Ryu going to clean up after a rotation with 4.66 ERA?