The red-hot Giants have played themselves into wildcard contention. Bumgarner, who is a free agent at the end of the season, was one of the premier trade chips a few weeks ago, but each Giants win has made it less likely he will be dealt before the 31st July deadline.
Farhan Zaidi, who is in his first year as Giants general manager, has kept his cards close to his chest. Giants rumours have been infrequent, and he has gone out of his way to downplay talk of being ‘sellers’ at the deadline.
Zaidi flipping Bumgarner when they’re still in contention – and in Bruce Bochy’s final season – seems unlikely. The Astros, though, who are keen to add to their rotation behind Justin Verlander, are clearly interested in the 2014 World Series MVP and who can blame them for giving Zaidi a call?
The trouble for Houston is that the Giants’ current run may well have seen the demands for Bumgarner increase. The crowds have returned to Oracle Park in recent weeks. While the Giants would claim they still want to be competitive, it’s hard to convince fans – and perhaps Bumgarner’s current teammates – that they’re still pushing for a postseason berth if they trade away the face of the franchise.
San Francisco aren’t under pressure to trade Bumgarner like they would have been if they were out of it. In fact, the pressure is in the other direction if anything.
Zaidi will need a haul to justify a deal. With Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley likely off limits for a rental, the fit isn’t obvious. Borderline top 100 prospects aren’t going to thrill a Giants fanbase as they wave goodbye to their three-time World Series hero.
Bumgarner is pitching as well as he has in years. His postseason worth is immeasurable. The Astros desire to add him is understandable, but the price will be high. It is, after all, a rental, and what Zaidi would need to make a trade is more than the Astros should be willing to give up.
There are other starters on the market who are either controllable – Robbie Ray, Matthew Boyd – or cheaper – Tanner Roark, Zack Wheeler. They might not come with the prestige, track record or experience of Bumgarner, but they’re probably the more sensible trade options for the Astros right now.