The Brewers may be looking to pick up a pitcher this offseason, and they could go for a big-name one-year addition via trade:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 27, 2018
The Brewers and Phillies, Morosi writes, have had “at least preliminary dialogue about trading for Bumgarner.”
It certainly makes sense to me that the Giants, with an aging roster in a competitive division and a new front office, would consider retooling things for the next year or two. And with Bumgarner potentially on the downswing already, trading him for some value now is probably more sensible than extending him and waiting things out.
As for the Brewers, they’ve long been in the market for a top-tier pitching addition, at least in the minds of everyone who observes them from the outside. They made things work last year without an ace (or even a number two) thanks in large part to a killer bullpen, but it still seems like they could really, really use a solid starting pitcher addition.
Is Bumgarner that guy? Well, despite a declining fastball and a variety of injuries, he’s still managed to keep his ERA around 3.30 the last two years. His peripherals look much uglier, though, including a strikeout rate that dipped below 20% last year, a walk rate that nearly doubled from his peak, and a fastball that is down a mile and a half from his peak. Heck, his contact numbers from last year don’t even look that good. Indeed, by his expected numbers at Statcast, he probably got lucky to the tune of 19 points of wOBA allowed.
Bumgarner’s previously stellar bat also fell way off in 2018, when he not only hit like a pitcher, he hit like a poorly-hitting pitcher. Also, it’s now been three years since he was an above-average hitter at the plate (and contributed more than 1.0 in additional WAR between offense and defense!), so maybe that part of his game is also now behind him.
At 29, it’s not as though Bumgarner can’t make the transition into a lower-velocity, still-successful starter. But given the injuries and the velocity decline, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect him to be the guy he was a few years ago. At $12 million in 2019, Bumgarner is a perfectly attractive mid-rotation starter, with a little bit of upside from there.
Should the Brewers (or Phillies) actually get something done, don’t let the name lead you to be surprised at the return. One year of this version of Bumgarner simply isn’t going to net a haul.