Astros Potential Trade Target: Madison Bumgarner
Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner could be a potential trade target for the pitching-needy Astros.
The Astros are going to be checking on pretty much every available pitcher before the July 31 trade deadline, with the exception of Ken Giles. While they may prefer to acquire a pitcher who they can control beyond this season, they surely wouldn’t turn down Madison Bumgarner in the right deal.
Bumgarner, who turns 30 on August 1, is set to hit free agency after the season, so he would be a pure rental (unless the Astros plan to work out an extension as part of the deal). However, there’s no denying what kind of boost he would bring to a pitching staff that could surely use one.
Take his latest start for example. Bumgarner essentially tossed a “Maddux” on Thursday against the Mets (a complete game with fewer than 100 pitches). He allowed one run on five hits with six strikeouts in nine innings on 94 pitches, but the game went into extras so it wasn’t really a complete game.
Still, that kind of performance would be huge for this Astros team. So what are the chances Jeff Luhnow acquires him, and would he really be worth it?
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Bumgarner isn’t quite the pitcher he was a few years ago when he had six straight seasons of 200-plus innings and no worse than a 3.37 ERA. He missed time with injuries in 2017 and 2018, totaling only 38 starts, though he was effective in both seasons. This year he’s got a 3.65 ERA in 21 starts.
Those numbers are still solid, but they’re more along the lines of a No. 2 or 3 starter than a bona fide ace. His strikeout rate has rebounded after taking a tumble the last couple of years, and he’s still clearly capable of eating up significant innings. Any team would be thrilled to have him in the rotation.
Of course the biggest thing he brings to the table is a nearly unparalleled postseason resume. He has a career 2.11 ERA in the playoffs in 102.1 innings of work, including three complete-game shutouts and NLCS and World Series MVP honors. Having Bumgarner join Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in the Astros rotation in October might just make opponents soil their uniforms.
What Would It Take?
First of all, there’s a question as to how available Bumgarner is. The Giants have surged recently to get back to the .500 mark, leaving them only 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. Their performance over the next week will go a long way toward them deciding whether to be buyers or sellers.
If they do indeed decide to sell, there’s another obstacle the Astros would have to navigate. Bumgarner has a limited no-trade clause, and the Astros are one of eight teams on his list. The remaining teams are also contenders, so the list was made strategically to give him leverage in trade negotiations.
Still, if the Astros are able to reach an agreement with the Giants, they would also have to go through Bumgarner to make the deal work. As we saw with the Verlander trade, that can be tricky, though certainly not impossible.
The good thing about trading for a rental is that the price wouldn’t be as high. If the Astros are intent on seriously upgrading the rotation, Bumgarner would likely come with a smaller price tag than someone like Matthew Boyd (who the Astros are checking into) or Marcus Stroman, both of whom have additional seasons of team control.
While I would love to see Bumgarner in an Astros uniform, however, I’m not sure how likely a match this is. I’m also not terribly optimistic that he’ll be traded anyway. Luhnow will certainly be paying attention to what happens here, but it seems like he’s more likely to get someone else.