The July 31st trade deadline will count this year for the contenders looking to upgrade via trades. With the August waiver trade deadline no longer an option, teams will have more of a sense of urgency to get their player. This will play against a GM like Jeff Luhnow who is patient and persistent, but those are the new rules. The Astros have a loaded roster, but they will probably look at the options closer to July.
With the recent struggles of Collin McHugh and up and down nature of Brad Peacock, the Astros could look at a starter. Both McHugh and Peacock could be better as relievers. Peacock is coming off a start where he altered his delivery and struck out a career-high 12 batters. The Astros are in a situation where they have time to access their rotation. Jake Kaplan just announced that McHugh would be going to the bullpen and Corbin Martin is to be called up.
The Astros are moving Collin McHugh to the bullpen. It’s expected Corbin Martin will make his MLB tomorrow in McHugh’s place.— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) May 11, 2019
What about a Mad Bum?
Today, Ken Rosenthal tweeted out the eight teams that Madison Bumgarner could block a trade to. While the message was a little confusing, he would later clarify, but the Astros were one of those eight teams listed. To the average fan, that would mean that the Astros have no shot to trade for him. Instead, Bumgarner chose eight contenders strategically, knowing that he could get something in return for not blocking the deal. Most times it’s a short term extension to accept the deal (extra-year).
Madison Bumgarner’s eight-team no-trade list, per sources:#Braves#RedSox#Cubs#Astros#Brewers#Yankees#Phillies#STLCards— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 11, 2019
Bumgarner chose teams strategically; list comprised solely of contenders that might want to acquire him from #SFGiants, not teams he wants to avoid.
We saw the Astros deal with something similar with the Justin Verlander trade in 2019. In that case, Verlander asked the Astros to waive his team option for 2020, which was less than his value. You know the story by now, the Tigers executives were waiting for Verlander in the lobby near the August 31st deadline. The rest is history as Verlander led the Astros to win the World Series.
Bumgarner does not want to or does not expect for a non-contender to trade for him. The Giants could be on pace to lose 90+ games this year, so he wants to get back to the playoffs for a team likely not going through a rebuild. The other teams on the list are Braves, Red Sox, Cubs, Brewers, Yankees, Phillies, and Cardinals according to Rosenthal. Bumgarner wants to have a say as to where he gets traded.
Would the Astros trade for Bumgarner?
If Forrest Whitley was dominating in Triple-A and the back of the rotation was more consistent, it would be a resounding no. Wade Miley has pitched like a third starter, but would you want him as the third starter in the playoffs? Bumgarner has a questionable injury history recently but is pitching okay for the Giants. His starts to remind me of Verlander before he was traded to the Astros.
AJ Hinch would love a third starter named Bumgarner, but what would it take to acquire him? While many people would be ok including Kyle Tucker in a trade package, we see him starting to heat up in Triple-A. There will be many teams out to trade for him especially with a reasonable $12 million salary in the final year of his deal.
Whoever trades for Bumgarner would only have to pay a prorated portion of that, and it would count against their luxury tax salary. The Astros luxury tax salary is $188 million, only short $18 million of the $206 million luxury tax threshold. This could limit the amount of salary the team could take on, buy $12 million is a bargain today for a pitcher who can also hit.
Speaking of which, you would think he would like to stay in the NL to continue to hit regularly. The only AL teams on that list are the Astros, Red Sox, and Yankees. If the Astros were to make a deal with the team, they would need to know that Bumgarner wants to waive the non-trade clause. I’m guessing another year at $12 million will not cut it. If the Astros feel like Gerrit Cole will command too much next season, they could offer Bumgarner a two-year extension.
This is all speculation of course.
Bumgarner is 29 years old and has a 3.99 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 49 ⅔ innings in 2019. He has a career ERA of 3.06 with a 112-87 record in the regular season. In the postseason, Bumgarner has dominated with an 8-3 record with a 2.11 ERA while striking out 87 hitters in 102 ⅓ innings. He also has 18 career homers with 60 RBI, all stats via Baseball-Reference.
Like Verlander, he’s an old school pitcher who can pitch deep into games. It is too early to get all worked up about this possibility, but something to monitor till the trade deadline. Until then, you can dream of Verlander, Cole, and Bumgarner in the rotation. After all, it is a pipe dream, right?