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D-backs get mostly positive marks for addition of Madison Bumgarner

Madison Bumgarner #40 of the San Francisco Giants during their MLB game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park on September 27, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks’ reported acquisition of Madison Bumgarner has some pros and cons. But in large part, the reaction to it has been positive.

It’s not the splash the D-backs made in December of 2015 by signing Zack Greinke to a deal worth $206.5 million, but it’s still the signing of a longtime ace who won 2014 World Series MVP. Not bad.

Last year, Bumgarner had a career-worst 3.90 ERA in 34 starts, owning a 1.127 WHIP. Those are fine numbers, but not ace-caliber stats. He did pitch 207.2 innings, though, which was a good sight to see after he pitched only 38 starts in 2017 and 2018 combined.

Two well-known baseball voices, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale and ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, each joined Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Monday, the day after the Bumgarner signing was reported. Both gave largely positive reviews of GM Mike Hazen’s decision.

“He’s better than anyone else on your pitching staff, which is great,” Kurkjian said. “You didn’t have to trade anybody to get him. He’s only 30 years old. He’s as big and as strong and as mean as any pitcher you’ll meet. He hates hitters. He hates the opposition. If someone takes their time running around the bases, he’s going to hear it from Madison Bumgarner, and I like that throwback quality to him. And I think he will bring an edge to the Diamondbacks. Maybe they don’t need it, but he will bring it, I promise. And he wanted to pitch there.

“Even though five years is a lot for a pitcher and $85 million is a lot for a pitcher, I thought he would get more. And with all those other teams that had interest, including the Dodgers, you made sure he didn’t go there. So all of that suggests that this was a good move for the Diamondbacks.”

Five years and $85 million amounts to an average of $17 million per season. Cole Hamels, who is five years older than Bumgarner and had a comparable ERA last year (3.81), got $18 million on a one-year deal with the Braves.

Nightengale had similar remarks to Doug & Wolf.

“I’m surprised he didn’t get more money from somebody else, I really was,” Nightengale said. “Considering all the other contracts, I figured he’d at least get 100 (million dollars).”

He noted that Bumgarner had four-year offers from at least two other teams — the Dodgers and the Giants — but the D-backs were ultimately willing to go the fifth year. It’s also worth noting, as pointed out by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, that because of tax implications, a California team would’ve had to offer north of $100 million for Bumgarner to make the same amount of net income as he would in Arizona on an $85 million deal.

That being said, it’s isn’t as if there’s no downside. Bumgarner is entering his 12th MLB season and is coming off the worst ERA mark of his career. As ESPN’s Buster Olney pointed out, Bumgarner’s home/road splits, fastball effectiveness and hard hits against are all trending in the wrong direction.

“He’s got a lot of mileage on that arm,” Kurkjian said. “I’ve seen all the studies of guys who throw a lot of innings in their late teens and early 20s, like Felix Hernandez, for instance, and eventually that arm wears you down. You just lose the life, you lose your fastball, you lose your velocity and we’re seeing some of that in Bumgarner. I’m not saying in any way that he’s the pitcher he was five years ago — he’s not. But he’s still pretty darn good.”

If it doesn’t work out for the D-backs, well … it’s not $206.5 million.

“In this case, the only thing you risk is the money,” Nightengale said. “But the money’s not that great. If it doesn’t work out the last couple of years, it’s not the end of the world.”


Doug & Wolf

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