Olney: Bumgarner is a Diamondbacks-sized Cole, Strasburg deal

Dec 17, 2019, 9:02 AM | Updated: 9:02 am
From left to right: Gerrit Cole (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky), Madison Bumgarner (AP Photo/Ben Margot...
From left to right: Gerrit Cole (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky), Madison Bumgarner (AP Photo/Ben Margot), and Stephen Strasburg (AP Photo/Mike Ehrmann, Pool).
(AP Photo/Mike Ehrmann, Pool)

While the Arizona Diamondbacks received mostly positive reviews for the acquisition of LHP Madison Bumgarner, the metrics might indicate the four-time All-Star is on the decline.

But that might not matter.

“If there’s anybody in baseball that metrics don’t apply to him, it’s Madison Bumgarner,” ESPN MLB insider Buster Olney told 98.7 FM Arizona Sports Station’s Burns & Gambo on Monday. “He’s such a competitor, that unbelievable post-season history tells you that there’s a lot more to baseball’s Paul Bunyan than simply numbers.”

Olney compared Arizona’s signing to the New York Yankees inking Gerrit Cole or the Washington Nationals signing Stephen Strasburg.

Strasburg set the pace on the free agent market by agreeing to a $245 million, seven-year contract with the Washington Nationals. The next day, Cole picked up a nine-year deal worth $324 million.

The D-backs plan to sign their next ace to a five-year, $85 million deal, nearly a third of what other top free agents are getting.

In a way, it’s a more responsible version of signing former pitcher Zack Greinke. In December 2015, Greinke joined Arizona on a six-year, $206.5 million deal. Greinke’s deal worked out to $34 million a year while Bumgarner’s will consume nearly half of that at $17 million a year.

“It’s proportional risk,” Olney said.

With that risk, there were underlying metrics that made other teams around the league hesitant to sign the 30-year-old pitcher.

“That was not like an isolated opinion,” Olney said. “The reason why Madison Bumgarner, a year younger than Stephen Strasburg, got a third of what Strasburg did was because of what the people see in the underlying numbers.”

As Olney notes in his story, Bumgarner comes from a pitcher-friendly park in San Francisco; his numbers were far more favorable at home than on the road. Opponents are hitting hits fastball at an increasing rate, and hard-hit balls are on the uptick off Bumgarner.

Regardless of how Bumgarner pans out in the long run, it demonstrates that the D-backs have been able to consistently do one thing: prepare for the future without tanking in the present.

“At a time when tanking has been a serious problem in baseball, the Diamondbacks have been able to do all of this —manage the payroll between Goldschmidt and dealing with Greinke’s contract and making that deal at exactly the right time — they never tanked,” Olney said.

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Olney: Bumgarner is a Diamondbacks-sized Cole, Strasburg deal