After losing out on starting pitcher Gerrit Cole to the New York Yankees, the Dodgers shifted their attention to former Giants’ ace Madison Bumgarner, according to Ken Rosenthal.
#Dodgers will now shift their focus to free-agent left-hander Madison Bumgarner, sources tell The Athletic.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 11, 2019
The first reaction from most fans was probably a mix of shock and disgust. Yes, the same Madbum that has been one of the Dodgers’ greatest rivals since 2010. The same one who helped the Giants win three championships in five years.
The second take was probably annoyance or laughter that the Dodgers would be keying in on a player many consider to be on the downside of his career. At 30 years old, Bumgarner has nearly 2,000 career innings pitched and hasn’t performed at an elite level since 2016.
However, Rosenthal offered a glimpse of hope for Bumgarner and talked about why so many teams are interested in the left-hander.
As I wrote in a recent column, the increase in Bumgarner’s spin rate on his four-seam fastball from 2018 to ’19 was the biggest in the sport. Once he learns to optimize his improved stuff, he might improve on his career-high marks in homers (30) and ERA (3.90) in 2019.
An improved spin rate is always something that will catch the eye of progressive organizations like the Dodgers. It also offers hope that his stuff is improving instead of declining. Take a look at the spin rate gain leaders from last season. The list has some pretty good pitchers on it.
Bumgarner also saw an increase in velocity last season, but it’s still below his career mark, which has some teams worried.
Bumgarner’s velocity ticked up slightly last season, but some clubs are alarmed by his overall decrease from a career-high 93.02 mph in 2015 to 91.72 mph in ’19.
It is possible Bumgarner’s health played a factor in the velocity drop after two injury-riddled seasons in 2017 and 2018. With a fully healthy 2019, his stuff might be catching back up to where it’s been in his career. It’s also possible the velocity increase is an outlier and could resume dropping next season.
Rosenthal said the Dodgers believe Bumgarner’s mini-resurgence is legit and he can get back to pitching at a high level. Especially if he learns to pitch more effectively and utilize the spin to his advantage.
The Dodgers are one of the teams that believe Bumgarner has upside. How much are they are willing to pay for that upside is the question, particularly when they could opt to re-sign free-agent left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who outperformed Bumgarner last season but is two years older.
Recent reports say Bumgarner is expected to receive a deal around 5-years and $100 million. As Rosenthal points out, the Dodgers could decide to keep Hyun-Jin Ryu at a lower cost, who I predicted will receive a 4-year, $80 million deal.
For whatever team signs Bumgarner, he presents a fair amount of risk. He could be a middle of the rotation starter, or worse, for the length of the contract. Or he could get back to pitching at a high level and become a bargain.
One thing is for sure. If the Dodgers sign Bumgarner, it will take fans quite a while to get used to seeing him in blue.