Thursday was ‘reaction day’ for all of the Baseball industry – in games, media, the blogophere. Among the discussion of winners and losers, was an interesting tidbit for Atlanta Braves fans to consider for the off-season.
Predictably, the trade deadline actions of the Atlanta Braves have been graded favorably in most circles, but there was another discussion that had nothing to do with the Braves – yet – that raised an eyebrow… and you just thought the rumor mill had closed for the season.
This message came via the Thursday afternoon Inside Pitch show on Sirius/XM’s MLB Network Radio that airs between 2 and 5 pm.
On this date, the hosts were Casey Stern and Jon Paul Morosi, the latter of which is well-known as a connected industry source.
The discussion involved the direction of the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday afternoon. The team ended up moving a number of their relief corps (including Mark Melancon to the Braves, of course), but more curious was that Madison Bumgarner stayed put – with his expiring contract.
Morosi expects Bumgarner to test Free Agency this Winter, and that the Giants will have to extend the dreaded Qualifying Offer to him… which will almost certainly hurt his market.
He believes Bumgarner will represent an ‘interesting test case’ for this, but – as we’ve seen – many teams are simply pre-disposed to ignore free agents with the QO attached since signing such players costs the team a draft pick.
Casey Stern then set up the next comment but suggesting that the Braves might be in the front of the line to sign him this Winter, offering that some considerable monies could be freed up to sign him (noting Donaldson, Keuchel, and others) given Bumgarner’s North Carolina roots.
Here, then, is Morosi’s comment – with the marked emphasis being supplied in the audio:
"By the way Casey, the comment you made about Bumgarner is spot-on: I’ve been told by multiple people who know him a lot better than I know him who say he wants to sign back home – and ‘back home’ is Atlanta… in terms of being as close to home as he can be – that is where he would love to be and you consider… that’s going to be a very good team."
source: Inside Pitch On Demand… sirius/XM listen live stream (subscribers only).
Factors in Play
It’s a long way to go before we reach the November-to-February free agency season, but what they suggest is true: Dallas Keuchel is almost certainly done with Atlanta at year’s end. He will be 32 next New Year’s Day and is still (probably) seeking a $20-plus million deal for at least 3+ seasons.
Madison Bumgarner turned 30 on Thursday – 17 months younger than Keuchel, and if he truly wants to be a Brave, perhaps there is a deal to be done.
The Qualifying Offer means that the Braves would have to surrender a 3rd round pick for the privilege of signing him, and while he wouldn’t necessarily come cheaply, the rest of his season could go a long way toward determining the team’s interest.
‘MadBum’ owns a career 3.09 ERA, though that’s been rising since a 2.74 campaign in 2016… mostly due to his return from injury.
While starting slowly in 2019, he’s suddenly been a lot better lately: a 2.70 ERA since July started. He’s been better at home – San Francisco – this year, and he’s been very good against left-handed batters… but even right-handers are only getting to him for a .765 OPS this season.
The Braves will definitely have some interesting decisions this Fall, and some considerable cash likely available:
- Julio Teheran‘s option ($12 million, $1 million buyout)
- Dallas Keuchel (expiring $13 million contract)
- Both Catchers and Nick Markakis (options)
- Josh Donaldson (expiring $23 million deal)
Darren O’Day will almost certainly be allowed to walk away after his $9 million deal expires.
The list of free agent starting pitchers coming up is interesting, but the number of quality arms is limited. Money talks quite loudly, of course, but it’s hardly a bad thing if somebody actually wants to play for you.
We’ll likely see what happens around early December.